writers on dancing


Lacking Subtext

Printz Dance Project
Cowell Theater
San Francisco, California
October 21, 2004

By Rita Felciano
copyright © 2004 by Rita Felciiano

Choreographer Stacey Printz describes her Printz Dance Project (PDP) as a fusion dance company. In her words this means a blend of “modern technique, jazz, hip-hop and ethnic forms.” I saw little of jazz’s rhythmic sophistication and but a smidgen of hip-hop and some Indian dance poses in this alternately tedious and endearing evening. For the most part what Printz does is, what I believe, used to be called “show dancing.” It’s fast, athletic, technically accomplished and emotionally uncomplicated. WYSIWYG dance may not be profound but, at its best, it demands a joyous, energetic use of the body and offers the simple satisfaction of tasks well accomplished. In modest doses watching dancers kick high, turn fast and synchronize their movements perfectly can be fun and quite entertaining.

If this was Ms. Printz’s objective, she accomplished it rather well. Her seven-year old company performed in a highly disciplined manner, full-out every second of the two hour show. The music, a variety of pop scores, some of them edited by Matthew Kratz who also created original material was used well. The closing premiere, “Surfacing,” also featured the live performance of a rather good Hip Hop collective, Felonious.

Where this well produced, seven piece evening fell short was in Ms. Printz’s the choreography’s lack of variety. Certain methods of working, such as an over reliance on unisons and canons, became predictable. If in a quintet, one dancer thrust her arm into the air, you could be sure that all the others would follow. Or if a sextet got divided into three couples, they almost inevitably performed in unison. The beats were so regular as to become wearisome; and the lines so clear and omnipresent that one longed for some smudging of contours, some holding back or pushing ahead of phrases. PDP’s well trained and committed septet of dancers simply was not able to overcome these limitations.

The program was called Subtext. That’s what there was not enough of.

The choreography worked best in the solos, two of them Ms. Printz designed on herself. A compact, athletic dancer, she has a body builder’s muscularity which she used in a beautifully controlled, but unshowy manner. Apparently, she doesn’t know the meaning of momentum. Allowing movement to unhurriedly travel through her body, she almost seemed to be observing herself in the process. As a performer she is intense but calm, an attractive combination.

In ‘Unrest’, the first episode in the new “Dark Spaces/looking thru windows”, Ms. Printz paced back and forth, repeating steps and gestures to then slowly melt into the ground and push herself into a handstand only to have her torso snap into a controlled jackknife. Most of the earlier “Inside Out” (2002) was performed close the ground where she rhythmically pulled and stretched herself across the stage. In a lyrical closed port de bras gesture you could watch the energy rippling through the arms. Rising from the floor, she looked like a dolphin breaking through the waves.

“Dark Spaces” also boasted an exuberant and nicely controlled solo, ‘Secrets,’ for Kerry Demme. Twisting and twirling her voluminous skirts, she took to the air or indulged in a belly slide when she didn’t drag herself along the floor on her elbows. At times Ms. Printz’s ability to pile movements on top of each other in kinetically surprising manners is quite good. Ms. Demme proved herself a charming, rather infectious performer.

“Dark Spaces”, also included a shadowing duet ‘Memories’ for Sharon Gallagher and Alissa Pearce. When finished—two more episodes are planned—“Dark Spaces” is supposed to reveal the glimpses people get when walking through dark streets and observe life inside houses. If the program notes hadn’t told me, I would not have made the connection.

“0-10 in 17”, performed to a 17 minute on screen countdown, examined our ever growing fascination with speed. Starting with a formidably synchronized unison duet for Mss. Pearce and Printz, it also featured a zany trio (Mss. Pearce, Printz and Jenni Updenkelder) with the black clad dancers looking as if dropped in from “Alien.” A number of wheels were attached to various body parts which allowed them to smoothly transition from binary to gliding propulsion. Though gimmicky, it was fun to watch.

In addition to the weak “Grasslands” in which snakes, moths and crickets did what they do, i.e. slither, flutter and hop, the program also featured two additional premieres, “Small Imperfections/Small Victories” and “Surfacing.”

“Imperfections,” performed to guitar, at times looked as if inspired by synchronized swim teams with the dancers on their backs in clock formation, raising angled arms. But times the work also looked like a study in mini-narrative with intruders breaking up relationships. “Surfacing,” with video clips of teenagers talking about their hopes and frustrations, featured the evening’s most extensive hip hop vocabulary. Unfortunately it was used rather blandly.

The evening opened with “People on Streets”, featuring painter Leslie Lusardi’s birds eye perspectives of walking pedestrians. For that piece Ms. Printz supplemented her own dancers with half a dozen other performers. They mostly walked, changed direction, encountered and greeted it each other—handshakes, forehead to forehead—when they didn’t flipped their partners. There was a staccato quality to this choreography which created almost a strobe light effect, much aided by Mr. Kratz’s mix of David Byrne and Meat Beat Manifesto. The fact that Ms. Printz here had to deal with trying to create a “crowd,” which by its nature is unruly, forced her to keep her compulsion for parallel construction somewhat in check. It’s not a bad lesson to have learned.

Photo of Maija Garcia, Stacey Printz, Kerry Demme by Brian Mahany
Volume 2, No. 40
October 25, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Rita Felciiano


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last updated on October 25, 2004