writers on dancing


Well Made Spontaneity

Kate Weare and Guests
West Wave Dance Festival
Program 3
ODC Theater
June 16, 2005

by Rita Felciano
copyright ©2005 by Rita Felciano

ODC Theater heated up during the West Wave Dance Festival’s third line up. It was not because the 187 seat venue—soon to be refurbished completely—was even more packed than during the two previous programs or what in other parts of the country could be described as a seasonal approximation of summer. This time the heat came from the stage. A festival dedicated to local choreography invited Kate Weare, originally from the Bay Area but living and working in New York since 2000. Why? “Because I love what she does,” Festival Producer Joan Lazarus explained. That’s probably good enough of a reason. In addition to Weare, the evening also featured two solos, the athletic “Embracing Nothingness” from 2001 by sometime Weare partner Karl Anderson and Della Davidson’s 1991 “Flying Over Emptiness” for longtime Bay Area dancer and teacher Frank Shawl. The reprise of “Field” by Annie Rosenthal Parr and Ashley Holladay, which had been premiered two nights before, completed the evening.

These performances were part of a tight three week line up (through July 31) during which the 14th West Wave Dance Festival, presented by Summerfestdance, offers a total of ten programs, 23 world premieres and more than 40 choreographers.

Lazarus’ enthusiasm for Weare’s choreography is easy to understand. In recent years the so called “well made” piece has acquired a reputation for stuffiness and academic dryness. Weare’s pieces are well made. They exude craft and a concern with structure, with setting out and working with what the material suggests. You sense intelligence and the choreographer’s mind at work. But this is craft buoyed with lightness of spirit and playfulness. The work looks tossed off and spontaneous but it is anything but.

At this point in her career, Weare seems to prefer working on a small scale—duets, solos. The witty “Two Cell Series,” co-choreographed and performed with Melanie Maar, looked like essays on one question. What if anything happens when two identical units meet? Drawing its analogy from biology, Weare suggested that you need difference for fusion.

In the first piece the two dancers wiggled, squirmed and body-rocked in unison towards each other until they almost touched. For just a moment some individualized movement suggested at least a conversation. But then the two retreated, as if they had scared each other off. Since the dancers’ encased legs looked liked tails of two squiggling sperms, no wonder that there was no baby.

In the second equally amusing duet a stretched arm, a pulled up leg or a rolling head called up a response in kind. The more individualized dancers were upright, their movement focused on rolling and articulated torsos which culminated in rolling, trembling and very excited hips. The proximity had turned up the heat. There surely would be fusion this time around.

“Three Short Solos: Dig, Dirt, Dissolve”, with well chosen music by Gerard Pesson, Wolfgang Cappellari and Astor Piazzola and beautifully danced by Diana Mehoudar, Maar and Weare respectively, were exactly what the title promised: short, very different from each other and each one a pleasure to watch. What they had in common was that the dance language for all its business revolved around central motives—such as stillness—to which the dancers returned again and again. In ‘Dig’ Mehoudar’s soft, low to the ground swings set a rhythm that sent her scratching and digging but came back to a centered crouch. For ‘Dirt’ Maar’s nodding head pulled her farther and farther down into scooting and scurrying out of which yoga poses materialized only to melt away. ‘Dissolve’s’ initial half-turns turned Weare into a buffeted weather vane but, what ever was rusty could not resist the pull of a diagonal beam of light. Though rocking back and forth, she made her way towards that increasingly bright light, skirt hiked up, ready of whatever heat that beam promised.

Weare’s longest piece, the fine, four part and nicely paced “Intercourse” for herself and Anderson, had the two partners interlock, separate and re-connect in every imaginable ways. These two dancers couldn’t be more different from each other. She is fast and articulated; he is stolid and athletic. So it seemed appropriate that Anderson more often acted as a frame—both comfort and confinement—which they constantly had to reconfigure. If the work was an image of a relationship, it was one of a constantly evolving one, where each partner draws from the other’s strength. Not a bad way to go.

In Anderson’s own solo “Embracing Nothingness,” the dancer hurled himself into a series of distinct and focused athletic explosions each of which ended up with him on his back. That sometimes crashing return to the floor felt like a never ending ritornello. The piece, however, looked more like a desperate attempt to penetrate than to embrace nothingness. It impressed more for its strong physicality than in its attempt at a metaphysical statement.

Every time he has performed it, Shawl has given Davidson’s “Flying”—based on a poem by Ted Hughes—more of a burnished glow. His is an intensity that is fueled by the contrast between an aging body and an intensely alive fighting spirit. Such a pleasure to see this complexly layered work—with its initially howling wind score by Jim McKee—being given such a rich performance.

Revisiting “Field”—it had premiered two nights earlier—afforded the opportunity not only to look again but also to see differently. The choreography pairs Rosenthal Parr, a fast, quirky and exuberant dancer, with former Mark Morris dancer Holladay who is more grounded and with a much less articulated body than Rosenthal Parr’s. The first time around, the unisons in particular seemed to highlight what Holladay is not, this time her pared down but powerful way through movement—no extraneous decorations, please—showcased this unequal pair very much as equals.

Volume 3, No. 27
July 18, 2005

copyright ©2005 Rita Felciano



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last updated on July 4, 2005