writers on dancing



An Evening of Dance/Theater
Nancy Havlik's Dance Performance Group
The Josephine Butler Parks Center
Washington, DC, USA
Saturday, November 19, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright ©2005 by George Jackson

Nancy Havlik's reading ranges from the light, whimsical and rather recent to the ancient classics. Refreshingly, she's not a choreographer who exploits writers. Rather, she seeks to be of service to the texts she selects. Making sure the words are clear and comprehensible, Havlik underlines and illustrates them with movement and dancing. Her work adds theatrical dimensions and a quotient of comment to books that many people admire and love. This program began with a comedy, "The Young Sleuth Slipped Quietly Out The Door", based on a Nancy Drew mystery and concluded with Lucretius and Homer.

In the Nancy Drew piece, a quartet of women played being girls and at girls' games. They explored not just the who-done-it but also the performance site—a grand old home facing Meridian Hill Park that was just the right spot for a haunted house yarn. Things started in the vestibule where the audience stood waiting. The girls appeared suddenly from out of nowhere, so it seemed, and in various states of trepidation ascended the big stairs. Of course, we followed and were led to a large first-floor drawing room with fireplace and many folding chairs from which we watched and listened to the rest of this bookdance. Havlik didn't challenge her cast technically. The movement, though, had spontaneity and required finesse. Easily could the characterizations have become cute and coy. They did not. The quartet—Denise Jakobsberg, Xie Phelps, Sandra Roachford and Heidi Schimpf—behaved like sufferable young teens. In the upshot, Havlick didn't let Nancy Drew solve her mystery but left us with a puzzle, plus curiosity about that sort of book.

For the classics, Havlik's movement was more formal. Sculpted poses and pointed gestures gave "Love and War (The Amorous Tale of Venus and Mars)" something of the look of a pair of orators debating. Yet there was plenty of sensuality, too, in this steamy affair of two immortals. Mars (dancer/critic Chris Dohse) looked manly and determined in his mid-20th Century brown business suit and Venus (dancer/writer Ana Inez Rubinstein) proud and shrewd in her tight green cocktail dress. According to Lucretius (as retold by Rubinstein), Venus set out to seduce Mars so that he would be distracted from causing war. Venus succeeded for a while. Anti-war sentiments also surfaced in "After Troy", based on Homer's "Odyssey" (recited in Robert Fagles' translation). The movement, performed by the women's quartet, was shipboard with the dancing seeming to take place on a ship's deck that tilted back and forth. Wearing military camouflage, the women undoubtedly represented Ulysses' crew. Their motion had remarkable continuity whether they functioned together like a Greek chorus or as individuals.

Between Havlik's comedy and her look at the classics, Becky Umeh showed two African dances— "Obitun-a", presumably a ritual offering of food, and "Ayo", a club dance. Umeh and her two companions, Maura M. Garcia and Miriam Conte, were diligent in the religious number but shook joyously, wildly in the profane. Heidi Schimpf's recitation and motion solo, "Waiting", performed on the house's first floor landing, seemed a textbook exercise. Live music for the Nancy Drew dance was by Peter Fraize on saxophone and Tye Russell on drums. Joseph Ngwa was drummer for the African ritual. Lou Harrison music, dry yet with drive, supplemented the words and movement in "Love and War", and "After Troy" had a Steve Hilmy score. Getting to glimpse a venerable house and share Nancy Havlik's perspectives on literature were particular pleasures.            

Volume 3, No. 43
November 21, 2005

copyright ©2005 George Jackson



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last updated on November 21, 2005