writers on dancing


Similar Moods

Cross Currents Dance Company and Lineage Dance Company
The Jack Guidone Theater
Joy of Motion
Washington, D.C.
August 7, 2004

by Tehreema Mitha

copyright © 2004 by Tehreema Mitha
published August 9, 2004

The program of nine dances for an evening shared between two all female companies, the local company of Cross Currents and the Lineage Dance Company touring from Los Angeles, was well balanced if a trifle too long.

“Drums of Reflection” and “The Breath That Reminds Me” were the two full company dances from Lineage Dance Company that stood out from a program that otherwise had too many dances with moods and choreography which were similar. If the dance in the “Drums of Reflection” was supposed to just reflect the mood of the drums, then it was successful and well thought out. However, if it was meant to show some essence of thought and deep reflection of the human spirit, then I’m afraid it was entirely lost on the audience. Hilary Thomas’s choreography utilizes lifts and dancers piled one on top of another to create towers that are too obvious and badly set up. Often times, they are completely unnecessary.

“The Breath That Reminds Me” was more intricate choreographically than the former dance. With arm movement drawn out with subtle nuances, with hip movements that were gentle yet significant and set to the music in an interesting manner that blended the two together forever. The dance was fun and flirty yet substantial at the same time. “The Ties That Bind” felt like three grownup women trying to play a game of real cats cradle with elasticized ties holding them together with which they played around, exploring the gymnastic ability of each dancer.

“Pandora”, at the end of the evening, is a dance with a lot of potential if the costumes could be given some thought. Wearing lingerie-like satin flowing dresses does not sit well on the ills and vice that spread out of the box. A little more emotion, a little more dramatic infusion into choreography that could easily absorb that influx would make this a crowd stealer. Thomas herself dances Pandora’s brief character with all the naivety and curiosity that you would desire.

However, the best piece from this company last night was without a doubt the solo portion of “Healing Blue”. “Inspired by the life of champion surfer and activist Rell Sunn, who was diagnosed with breast cancer when just 32; Sunn was given only months to live” but “she chose to live life to its fullest”. Beautifully danced by Caterina Mercante, this was a deeply felt piece of choreography. Though nothing was taken from all the delicate balancing that I would have thought would come from surfing and would surely be part of an inspiration for such a piece, the dance clearly showed a person unable to call her body her own and yet trying to control the part that was running away. It was not clear in any sense what the disease was; it could at times have been Parkinson, it could have been a lack of muscle control; but it was poignant. The emotional content that came through tugged at one’s heart.

I could certainly have done without the second portion of the dance where the other dancers enter and confuse the whole issue. If anything it gave the wrong message, as if Sunn had passed on her pain to all the others, not her joy of life.

With all the intensity of dance from Lineage Dance Company, Cross Currents suffered somewhat in comparison. Yet Helen Hayes, who took to the stage for each item from the company, left one with the longing to see her perform with some other dancer who would match her and give us a show of which she alone in this company is obviously capable. Steeped in every role she performed, at times her facial expressions could almost seem overdone because they were not mirrored effectively by any of the others. Her landings, her leaps and the clean quality of her moves stood out from her dancers and one can only hope that the others know their rawness in the field and are continuing to strive to the standard that Hayes sets.

That said, the humor of the piece choreographed by Hayes, “Waiting for No One” was a welcome relief in the evening. Set to music by Yo Yo Ma, the dance starts off with one friend trying to reach the other by phone, their excitement and joy in meeting, a moment when that connection is definitely made, and then the moving apart, ending with a shrug of the shoulder and back to the isolation of the individual world. The dance did not show any of the sadness tinged with a slight bitterness that Hayes herself seemed to hint at when I talked to her about the dance. It was light and airy as if talking of a passing incident. Yet Hayes herself seemed to think of this as a deeper experience of life, where too many people you think a lot of expect some emotional sharing with, disappoint you, so that in the end you learn to rely solely on yourself.

Debra Kanter’s “Crevasse’ was born out of a dream in which she saw herself and her family trying to save each other from falling into a crevasse, at a time when her older child was nearing puberty. An interesting story that was, unfortunately, indiscernible in the dance. Why are choreographers afraid of being more specific in their story telling? A little indication of a crevasse, an area not to be crossed where the dancers were always looking down and seemed to get into lower floor movements as they approached, would have given indication of the story. Hayes as the mother was an involved dancer, but her daughter, danced by Jennifer Tucker needs much more dramatic input. The choreography, too, leaves the relationship un-explained, as the equality in the movements of the two characters does not show a parent to child and visa-versa combination.

Likewise, “Code Blue” an excerpt from a dance said to reflect the effects of the sniper attacks both internally for Kanter as a mother and for the community is too vague in it’s plot and it’s characterization. “The Reflective Surfaces, Art Versus Nature, Who Am I Anyway Blues?” begins with wonderfully humorous choreography that is well executed, but loses itself entirely in it’s tracks, confused and unclear as to it’s raison d’ etre. A pity, since building on the first part could produce a dance of strength. Comedy is never easy to do, whether in dance or drama.

I remark about the lighting design must be made as I close. Despite much changing of the gels on sidelights, the overall effect was too strong considering that the Jack Guidone Theater is such a small stage. Without the badly needed facility of side wings the support of good lighting is a must. This was not provided for this performance and was sorely felt.

Photo: Dancers of Cross Currents Dance Company.

Originally published:
Volume 2, No. 30
August 9, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Tehreema Mitha


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last updated on August 9, 2004