writers on dancing


Meandering Repetition

Francesca Selva Dance Company
Danspace Project's Dance:Access Series
St. Mark's Church
New York
September 9, 2005

By Susan Reiter
copyright ©2005 by Susan Reiter

There was an air of grim determination from the start of Francesca Selva's shapeless, disappointing two-part "Camminando-XYZ" that remained throughout the ninety-minute work. The four dancers performed their appointed tasks with such a dour air that the dance took on the atmosphere of an assignment to be gotten through. Certainly, the overall vagueness and lack of focus in Selva's choreography—with its bland mix of cleanly executed ballet steps ( plenty of arabesques and jetes) with generic, swoopy partnering and uninspired floor sequences—did not give them much to work with.

Selva's ten-year-old troupe is based in Siena, Italy. Her background includes training at the ballet school at La Scala and studies in France with a variety of teachers, including Rosella Hightower, and early in her career she danced with Roland Petit's Ballet de Marseille. The two men and two women performing in this piece clearly were ballet-trained, and the women had lovely line in arabesque, but Selva mixes in elements of ballet within a more generalized, matter-of-fact contemporary approach.

"Camminando-XYZ" (the first half's title is translated as "Simply Walking") is identified in the program as one work in two parts; there was a 15-minute intermission between the two. Aside from a different look in costumes and a switch to Mozart and Bach from Albeniz and various Mediterranean and Balkan-flavored music, the second half looked more and more like a repeat of what went on in the first. If Selva was aiming to make a statement through contrast, she has not succeeded.

We first meet the dancers as they stride or stroll into the performing area as though in the midst of their everyday lives. But there is an uneasiness and strangeness in the air, and when one of the men lies down on his back, a woman in a bright red dress and chic black heels nudges him with her foot, as though to test for signs of life. Soon both she and the other, less glamorously dressed, woman strip down to white bras and briefs. The one in heels (Laiza Pucci) keeps them on, and the other *Francesca Forgione) sports clunky black workboots. A second man jogs through the space. There is no sound yet, and the lighting keeps the space in shadow, with strips of light across the floor.

As a familiar, rapid-fire Albeniz guitar selection, performed instead on piano, begins, the dancers pair up briefly for duets within separate rectangles of light. Pucci sits on Massimo Cerruti's back while he is on all fours, taping her foot rapidly and nervously. They move into lifts and simple partnering moves, but there is a strange disconnect between them. She exudes warm sensuality, but he seems distant. Further upstage, Forgione (without her boots) and Marcello Valassino seem to make a more romantic connection. He holds her up and she arches out and back as he slowly turns.

 As several other musical selections succeed the Albeniz (one features an accordion, another sounds like a guitar duet), the dancers add and remove various items of clothing, with the women sporting slips, camisoles and, in one section, full flouncy skirts. Selva seems to find the articles of clothing, and the act of putting them on and removing them, significant, but in a way that comes across as puzzling. When the men, put on soft, stretchy tops for one section, much of their choreography involves yanking and stretching them sideways or over their heads, as though they were indecisive about whether to remove them entirely.

Much of the music Selva chose has a strong rhythmic momentum, but her choreography rarely picks up on that. The dancers keep busy, appearing in brief solos, sometimes pairing up, and falling into spurts of unison for all four. But it's hard to discern an inner logic or momentum to what Selva presents, and the dancers' disaffected performance manner and dutiful presentation do no help.

In the second half, the dancers wore soft, floor-length white culotte-cut skirts; the men are bare-chested and the women wear sports bras. Aside from suggesting an angelic, other-worldly milieu, they perform much of the same kind of movement, with certain repeated simple floor sections ( lots of twisting and rolling, with a hint of blurred yoga poses) returning from the first part. Selva seems to have the dancers go to the floor periodically, but for no apparent purpose. It all looks rather aimless and lackadaisical. In this second half, titled "XYZ," the dancers go through their quasi-spiritual motions to the second movement of Mozart's "Symphonie Concertante," which feels interminable in this setting.

Next, the music switches to a very blurry, muffled-sounding recording of a Brandenburg Concerto. A new level of energy and engagement arrives as Cerruti strides on atop stilts, wearing black pants and maneuvering with admirable ease as he engages with Manzione in what seems to be a struggle between moral forces. Cerruti lifts his elongated "leg" in a grand battement, and is lifted and replaced. It certainly raises the energy level and breaks the ongoing sameness, even if it all seems to come out of nowhere. But as two more (equally poorly recorded) Bach selections are heard, and Cerruti is no longer on stilts, the piece meanders further into blandness. The dancers lie on the floor so that their bodies for an "X." This may have some deep significance, but at this point it is hard to care.

Volume 3, No. 33
September 12, 2005

copyright ©2005 Susan Reiter



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last updated on August 29, 2005