Millennium Stage Northwest
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC, USA
Monday, September 20, 2004
© 2004 by George Jackson
published September 27, 2004
It was a big production number, relatively speaking, that opened CityDance's
six part evening. "TransParent" had a stage cast of five dancers
plus a screen cast of several children. It mixed media and lasted about
25 minutes. Everything else on the program was smaller scale compared
to this Kennedy Center commission. Yet, "TransParent" didn't
flaunt its scope. Quite the contrary, it seemed unduly reticent. On the
level of content, too, one expects modern dance to be daring and dangerous,
so this piece came as something of a shock. It was soft and cuddly, unclosetedly
sentimental, and all of it was about very little kids. The adult dancers
onstage impersonated the children, while behind and above them there was
movie footage and still imagery of tots at play, of daisies and a teddy
Credited for writing, directing and choreographing "TransParent"
is Vladimir Angelov. The same Vladimir Angelov whose wickedly witty valentine
was the hit of Washington Ballet's 7x7 bill last season? Hard to believe,
but it said so in the printed program and in the credits on screen. I
can now also give him his due for bringing out my latent W.C. Fields nature.
It was W.C. who said that he liked children—boiled or broiled!
Even so, I must acknowledge the craftsmanship that went into "TransParent".
There was correspondence between the dancing in the foreground and the
playing behavior in the background. Mr. Angelov and his cinematographer,
Ludovic Jolivet, know how to isolate movement tellingly. To see a child
rolling around in a sandbox and below, almost in parallel, a dancer revolving
across the stage floor, links the raw material and the refined product.
It establishes a rare connection between spontaneity and art. At times
the effect can be magical. That the dancing by itself might seem bland
or too cute is irrelevant because there is always the counterpoint with
the screen to give it character and bestow a resonance.
The dancers were adept at echoing the children's concentration, their
resolve, as well as their sudden gear shifts. Karen Bernstein, Reggie
Cole, Tiffani Frost, the elegant Kelly Mayfield and the technically strong
Florian Rouiller acted and danced as if they had stepped out of their
own skins and were inhabiting children's bodies. I'm not sure whether
the piece's title is just a pun or refers to such a transference. The
accompanying music, from Chick Corea's "Children's Songs," had
a jazzy lyricism and there was internal counterpoint. Mr. Jolivet and
Paul Gordon Emerson were the cameramen. Joe Nay's lighting was interfered
with a bit by the daylight penetrating the foyer's window curtains.
Three of the five other pieces were what the Soviets used to call miniatures,
one was a divertissement variation and one a chamber composition. All
three categories encompass works on a modest scale, with the divertissement
variation being for entertainment's sake and also serving to show off
the performer's technical prowess. "Flight," the last item on
the CityDance bill (an add-on, not mentioned in the printed program),
was such a variation.Mr. Emerson had choreographed it to display Morgann
Rose, a dancer who has been seen regularly with Washington Ballet. She
is fully at home with the classical step vocabulary. Mr. Emerson, though,
is not. While he had Ms. Rose move rapidly, lightly, in what amounted
to a joyful dance, quite a few of the steps he gave her were not on full
toe. There's no law against that, but the off-pointe steps must be chosen
carefully, so that the toe shoes don't look like hindrances. In the "Flight
solo", they sometimes did.
I much preferred another Emerson piece, "A Journey," which was
a miniature history of a complex relationship between a woman, Kelly Mayfield,
and a man, Reggie Cole. Emerson used a contemporary dance vocabulary cannily
to express feelings and states of mind.
A gem of a miniature was Mr. Jolivet's pantomime, "Roger & Lucie."
The choreographer plays Roger, a sad sack janitor mopping the floor. The
mop becomes Lucie, and Roger woos her. She remains aloof. He tries other
approaches to win a response and when those fail, he tries to rid himself
of his illusion. Reality sees to it, ultimately, that Lucie again becomes
just a mop in Roger's hands. That, though, makes the piece poignant. Hats
off to Chaplin, Barrault, Marceau et al. and Mr. Jolivet!
Another miniature was "Arabesque," Tiffani Frost's slow and
sensual dance for herself, for which she was in scrumptious form.
Roger C. Jeffrey's "Be Still...Listen" looked large, although
it was just chamber size, for four dancers— Ms. Mayfied, Eileen
Beth Mitchell, Ellen Rippon and Alice Wylie. It harkened back to the choric
women's groups of early modern dance, bending the torso with effort and
angling the arms with rigor. Nothing soft, cuddly in this piece. Never
would Mr. Jeffrey's women have raised the children of "TransParent".
Volume 2, No. 36
September 20, 2004
©2004 by George Jackson
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Jean Battey Lewis
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Kathrine Sorley Walker
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