Dancing that Breathes
of the Soul"
by Rita Felciano
Liss Fain is a choreographer who has been making dances in the Bay Area at least since the early nineties. It's been work whose intelligence and scope has been never less than intriguing. She has choreographed around concepts of physical and mathematical science. Last year she programmed an evening of a number of choreographers where she tried to "choreograph" the various pieces into a coherent whole.
But sometimes what we saw on stage did not come up to the ideas. You
always understood, and even admired what was attempted; but you were often
left wanting more. But Ms. Fain kept at it. Though trying out different
formats, she always worked with ballet trained dancers and good collaborators,
such as James Meyer and, above all, the excellent lighting wizard, Matthew
Antaky. This persistence and consistency finally seems to have paid off.
Ms. Fain deployed the sextet in varying combinations of two, sometimes detailing them with unexpected gestures or quirky accents. In one Ms. Bassett, a tall red-headed dancer partnered a much shorter M. Ketron, their differences complementing each other just fine. Ms. Randall's softly assertive solicitous entryties towards the stoic Mr. Copley raised poignant questions of compatibility.
The evening's first premiere "Eclipse", for which Ms. Fain collaborated with videographer Austin Forbord, was haunting. On a full-stage video screen, Mr. Forbord presented Mr Lkhagvador, seated in a verdant landscape, singing Mongolian chants and playing a "lute." Gradually, the landscape became more transparent as first one, then two, then three dancers (Mss. Bassett, Beamer and Vella) began explorations of solitary trajectories. Eventually—if I heard correctly—a second voice entered—Mr. Lkhagvador at first performing in counterpoint to his video image, than alone. Seated upstage center, in a magnificent native outfit he looked like royalty.
Mr. Meyer's costumes, in red, brown and green, suggested "gird your loins". The calm, deliberate choreography vaguely evoked temple figures with dancers taking turns paying obeisance either in dance or kneeling, forehead to floor.
With the premiere of the three part "The Unknown Land" (whose first two sections were shown at the last Summerfest), to Mr. Lygeti's Piano Concerto, Ms. Fain took on a lot. It's a piece in which fragmentation is offset by continuity and a kaleidoscopic sense of shimmering sound patterns. The choreography focused on nicely differentiated duets and luscious lifts. Performing against each other, the dancers flew onto the stage in ever changing configurations, sometimes in direct response to the music, sometimes veering off in apparently independent directions.
The two outer movements framed a central section in which dream-like dancers crossed at the back of the stage, setting off foregrounded duets. "Land" is the only work in which Mr. Adam performed. A short, muscular dancer, he was used too much as a porteur, a role in which he clearly felt uncomfortable.
According to Ms. Fain's program notes, the concluding "River at the End", served as a resolution to an evening whose thematic concerns had entailed "tension, conflict and resolution" when "one's self-definition and determination clash with the unchangeable course of historyŠ.." etc. etc. etc.
What the piece was, with the dancers clad in gold and bathed in Mr. Antaky's warm lighting, was a glorious romp of communal energy, carried aloft by Mr. El Din's Nubian music, as interpreted by the Kronos Quartet. Incorporating silence rather nicely, the piece was more enjoyable for the commitment that the dancers brought to its joyous spirit than the originality of the modern/folk inflected choreography. Some touches of what looked like "orientalisms" in vertical poses and gestures, did not exactly look at home in choreography inspired by African music. Ms. Beamer was the guide for this band of revelers traipsing through a serpentine landscape.
2, No. 43