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"Forces of Dance" American Dance Festival Closing Concert
Meditation, Tribute, Celebration: ADF's 80th Season Wraps Up
The American Dance Festival's final show of the season, "Forces of Dance," presented four very different works, three of them performed by ADF students, at the Durham Performing Arts Center. The line-up was promising: Lin Hwai-min, Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp, and Bill T. Jones, all legends of modern dance and recipients of the Samuel H. Scripps/ADF Award for Lifetime Achievement. The concert was a reminder that ADF is not just a presenter of current American and international dance artists, but also plays an important role in preserving historical repertory and commissioning new work for the field, as well as training the dancers and choreographers of the current and next generation. While the concert as a whole did not leave the kind of impact I hoped, it was not wholly disappointing either.
The opening solo, an excerpt from Lin Hwai-min's "Moon Water," performed by Chou Chang-ning, was mesmerizing. A quiet, subtle meditation on Taoist philosophy, the solo (and the whole of "Moon Water") makes visible the physical interplay between energy and form, initiation and follow-through. The dancer's white pants glowed as energy rippled up from the base of her spine and out through her delicate fingertips. Sometimes, the flow of energy was controlled, redirected; other times it simply emanated out into the space, ripples in the pond. Sometimes the body seemed to be a conduit, but other times, she appeared to actually be the water, the curling tendril of smoke.
American Dance Festival "Footprints" 2013 Student Concert
To the Edge: ADF students go all out for Footprints concert
The annual student concert at ADF is always a popular one, as ADF students and family members pack the house, excited to see their classmates and friends perform. This year's Footprints concert at Reynolds Industries Theater brought three emerging choreographers to premiere new works set on their ADF student casts over the past six weeks. Rosie Herrera's "Make Believe," Adele Myers' "The Dancing Room," and Vanessa Voskuil's "Gates" occupy vastly different worlds, but each is characterized by the generosity and commitment of the performers.
Herrera, a frequent presence at ADF in recent years, is known for her dramatic flair and her ability to infuse her choreography with a heady mix of wackiness, sadness, and beauty, complete with impeccable comic timing. It is impossible not to think of her recent works for her own company (particularly "Various Stages of Drowning" and "Dining Alone") when watching "Make Believe," hoping for a similar quirky, sharp poignancy. Those qualities are evident here, or beginning to be, but the dance feels underdeveloped, as if the various sections of the dance have not yet had time to coalesce into their most concentrated version, have not deepened into their richest tones.
Trisha Brown Dance Company
What Would Happen If I ... : Trisha Brown Dance Company at ADF
The dance community has recently said goodbye to many of the postmodern greats (Merce Cunningham, Pina Bausch) and now we must add new work from Trisha Brown to the list. In December of 2012 Brown announced that her two most recent works, "I'm going to toss my arms - if you catch them they're yours" and "Les Yeux et lame" (both made in 2011), were to be her last. Though Brown gave her blessing for the company to continue performing its repertory, the Trisha Brown Company began a three year farewell tour of her proscenium based works at the beginning of 2013. On July 19th and 20th, the American Dance Festival presented three of Brown's works ("Set and Reset" (1983), "If You Couldn't See Me"( 1994), and "I'm going to toss my arms - if you catch them they're yours" (2011)) as part of this tour.
Ideas of visibility versus invisibility strike immediately as the curtain rises on the set of "Set and Reset". A projection of black and white images of seemingly random scenes (railroad cars, a grinning elderly lady, two children riding bicycles) play on sheer screens hanging from the ceiling. Lights dim up to reveal transparent wings which give full view of the dancers "offstage" in translucent, flowing pants and tops made of black and white patterns that suggest newspaper print created by Robert Raushenberg. The dancers begin to move independently from yet supported by the maddening turned hypnotic loop of Laurie Anderson's "Long Time No See". The dancers swing and shimmy with luscious fluidity, yet dart and spoke with a specificity that is distinctly Brown. Finding the cyclic nature of the weight and suspension of limbs working with and against gravity, the dancers hitch thighs before allowing the leg to swing down carrying them in a pounce across the space. The movement seems playful and improvised, yet the developing and dissolving geometric patterns and unpredictable partnering suggests careful structure. A male dancer round de jambes en lair to the back, bouncing his foot off a female dancers hip bone causing her to bounce back into the arms of another male who has turned out without a second to spare before she crashes to the floor. These unforeseeable partnering moments create bursts of surprise and joy and are the major carrier of the piece as there are no easily recognizable or tangible themes to grab onto from "Set and Reset".
Photo by David Andrews