writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition

Passion Wanted

Bowen McCauley Dance
Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center
Washington, DC
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Reviewed by George Jackson
George Jackson

Lucy Bowen McCauley tasks herself seriously. Her choreography tackles enduring music. She insists within reason of having that music live. In different dance works, she cultivates distinct worlds. The shapes of her dances are legible, steps link logically, her dancers are challenged in ways that suit their gifts and (when the music doesn't do it for her), Bowen McCauley knows when to stop. She entertains her public, and educates it just a bit. All that sounds good. There aren't many choreographers of whom one can say as much, yet I find myself waiting for more. Are there further steps for Bowen McCauley to take?

This "Evening at the Terrace" opened with ah, love (2003) to some of Brahms's Liebeslieder Walzer and also included a solo, Ian (premiere), to excerpts from the companion set, the Neue Liebeslieder Walzer. In a dance goer's mind this waltz music conjures previous choreography by, respectively, George Balanchine and Mark Morris. For Unseen Powers (2003), again there was Brahms (the second movement of his second piano concerto). In this instance it was the movement that made one think of symphonic ballets and Leonide Massine's use of dancers as architecture in motion. It seems Bowen McCauley isn't afraid to challenge the masters, or even on occasion a local colleague—Pasion (premiere) steps onto the tango territory Juan Carlos Rincones has claimed as his own hereabouts.

Bowen McCauley makes of the love piece a vignette about a threesome, two women and a man (Elizabeth Gaus, Ingrid Zimmer and Marco Gallerizzo). The choreography explores the situation's romantic dilemma in a dual way by using mimetic humor (with a light touch) and tell tale movement signs such as clenched fists and exclamatory arms. The piece's fundamental dance style is loosely balletic (so-called flatfoot ballet) with the unusual hands and arms creating a fascinating counterpoint to the more conventional torso and leg motion. Instead of developing this anatomic polyphony, though, the choreographer lets the hands-and-arms line drop away. What remains is bodily balletic and facially mimetic. This pleasant piece ends less interestingly than it began.

The solo to the New Lovesongs excerpts is clearly differentiated from the dance for the threesome. The two works didn't adjoin on the program, Brahms's music is more complex in the new waltzes and Bowen McCauley's choreography is more than just loosely balletic. Obviously this is a showpiece for a very promising young ballet dancer, Ian Lindeman. He has proud bearing and an expansiveness that would suit spaces larger than the Terrace. But why not allude to the love theme of the title? That would have answered a further question about Lindeman—can he act? Unseen Powers was also for the young—8 women led by Shelly Fletcher and Julie Petrusak. This symphonic piece to recorded Brahms came as something of a sound shock after live Brahms that had been performed by The Circle Singers under Sondra Proctor's direction and pianists Laurie V. Bunn and Brenda Yeier. As performance, too, Unseen Powers, a good school piece, didn't quite belong on this program.

When men wear shoes why should women wear only slippers? The women in Pasion were at a distinct disadvantage, especially since those particularly thin, pallid slippers made feet look ugly. There was, though, inventive movement throughout and effective dancer juxtapositioning. Another asset was a juicy pouting role for the admirable Alison Crosby. Design (Martha Mountain's lighting and Judy Hansen's costumes) contributed to mood, as elsewhere on the program. Overall, though, Pasion wasn't as riveting as Rincones's tangos can be.

Musica Ricercata (2001), to Gyorgy Ligeti piano music performed by Bunn, is formally astute. Dancers are subtracted from a group of ten and gradually added back. To match Ligeti's fragmentations and chiming, Bowen McCauley stylized the choreography in a counter ballet way, close to Alwin Nikolai modern movement and also not far from Mark Morris's newest dance, All Fours, to a Bartok string quartet. One of Bowen McCauley's prominent motion themes was music cartooning rather than music matching—a squatting run with hands resting on the knees and shown in profile. Apart from this image, Ricercata is full of handsome and aptly off-handsome juxtapositions and interactions among the dancers. However, in memory this Bowen McCauley work doesn't remain as clear as the dislikeable new Morris.

More clarity, lucidity? Greater consistency? Are these the next steps for Lucy Bowen McCauley? She's very caring as a choreographer but dare she kindle passion?

Originally published:
Volume 1, Number 4
October 20, 2003

©2003 George Jackson




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The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

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The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

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