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The DanceView Times, San Francisco Bay Area edition


Company Chaddick
OCD Theater
March 26, 2004

By Rita Felciano
Copyright © 2004 by Rita Felciano
published 12 April 2004

“Innovative” and “cutting edge” are not descriptions you would apply to Cheryl Chaddick’s choreography; “expressive” and “well crafted” are. That is until this most recent program. For the last nineteen years, Chaddick has created voluptuously full-bodied choreography that oozes and flows with the naturalness of the human breath. It’s choreography that is propelled by a deeply felt humanistic impulse. Even as over the years she has adapted it freely and made it her own—particularly by lightening it and through an infusion of humor—her roots in Limón are unmistakable.

As Limón was, Chaddick is a much respected teacher, drawing professional dancers to her modern dance classes. In this particular concert, the teacher seems to have won out over the choreographer. Maybe four premieres for one evening was too much to attempt even for someone with her experience.

Both large scale premiers, Glances and Behind the Moon had something of a recital quality about them. They seemed designed to give dancers an opportunity to shine individually rather than having to integrate themselves into an independently standing work with a clearly articulated perspective. As is her want, however, Chaddick had good dancers and excellent collaborators.

Illustrator/artist Ed Bell provided slides of his exceptional studies of the female figure. Some of them looked like attenuated gouaches; others had a sculptural physicality about them. All of them spoke with a strong voice against which the bland choreography could not compete.

Glances had a piece-meal episodic quality about it not mediated by Daniel Berkman’s fresh sounding score. The opening quartet paired two unequal couples in unison or gender-specific moves. While intriguing to watch such different dancers engaged in a common language, the lack of a nuanced expressiveness put a pallor over the section. A nuzzling trio sent Katie Aggen, Jeannine Vogt and Jennifer Wright ambling through self-conscious slithering moves. They were followed by Blane Ashby, Pete Litwinowicz and Orcu Malkoclar, in street clothes, trying out accidental but quasi-confrontational street encounters. Kim Mata’s monologue, as an Appalachian girl who has hit the big city, was about as cliched as they come. And was the accompanying live presentation of “Rise and Shine” supposed to be an ironic comment? Two sextets added more non-sequiturs. In the first, two women each competed for the attention of an indifferent male; the second featured something along energetic party dancing to a slightly jazzy beat.

In the past Chaddick has done much better examining ordinary lives as lived by ordinary people; however, it was good to see Aggen and Jose Ivan Ibarra transcend this very modest material.

The second company work, Behind the Moon which, given the circumstances of this concert had given the evening its rather unfortunately chosen title, was described as having grown out of a workshop situation. That’s exactly what the piece looked like; it seemed an exercise in creating and maintaining connection. In a line dance individual couples, for instance, seemed to have been given the task of fixing on each others energy to create an inevitable pull. The final duet, awkward as it was between José Ivan Ibarra and Chattick, suggested that the whole dance had been a tender memory.

For the most part Moon had good production values: softly flowing pastel party dresses (Western Wear and James Meyer), colorful cloth lanterns (Chris Carter) and above all, John Retsky’s marvellously dark lighting design that bathed the stage like moon-lit woods. However, the music editing—from Monical Pascal’s The Crash and the movie Monster Ball—seemed sloppy. It repeatedly cut off the sound in mid-phrase.

In a third premiere, the forceful Brother to Brother, Chaddick, the choreographer, was back in charge. Here Litwinowicz and Blane Ashby were joined by Ibarra and Jason Torres Hancock, two energetic movers whose clean attacks and impressive speed enlivened athletic encounters and male posturing which did not preclude moments of genuine lyricism. Despite its somewhat fragmentary nature, Brother ‘s athleticism and robust physicality projected elasticity within an overall flow.

Of the two When, Where, Why duets, the earlier one from 1996 resonated more truthfully. It paired Chaddick and Wright, as two sturdy farm women who proclaimed their independence of men. Sitting on chairs and shelling peas, their gestural vocabulary was supplemented by Wright’s text. After a while you got the sense that her character, less certain of her freedom, maybe was another voice inside Chaddick’s head.

In the second version, the evening’s fourth premiere, the women had donned bleached muslin and stringy blond wigs and moved from the Kentucky hills to Marin County. Here freedom and independence meant vegetarianism, no cosmetics, no household chores, earth-embracing rituals etc. etc. You get the picture.

First: Photo of Jennifer Wright by Andi Mogg
Second: Photo of Jennifer Wright & Pete Litwinowicz by Andy Mogg

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 13
12 April 2004
Copyright ©2004 by Rita Felciano




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