Sharir Dance Company:vibrant Dancers
UT, May 2
I am always delighted by the way each new cast of dancers brings a facet of individuality and personal style to the well-established Sharir Dance Company. Yacov Sharir's technique is distinct — with its slicing arm movements; seamless, inventive partnering; focus on leg extensions with flexible, rolling torsos; and leaps with downward focus — but it's the dancers who, having assimilated the technique, make the choreography breathe. The company's season finale saw some spectacular performances by the company and guest artists. Notable was Jeffrey Bullock, a new faculty member in the UT Department of Theatre & Dance, dancing easily alongside longtime company members in The Egg, from 1992.
The program focused on Yacov Sharir, featuring repertory from his 15 years as SDC artistic director as well as two premiere works. The choices for the retrospective ranged from an emotionally moving lyrical duet, More About Love, in which two dancers, both clad in blue, explored the positive and negative spaces created by the interaction of their bodies, to the oblique 2x5+, a group piece featuring scratchy metallic music coupled with light wheels/cogs projected onto dancers performing mechanical and highly virtuosic movement. Juxtaposed, the two pieces highlighted the breadth of Sharir's work. Just as the duet was satisfying — a loving conversation of counterpoint between two dancers, who ultimately embraced to the haunting strains of Israeli singer Yudit Ravitz — the group piece left me scratching my head; the dancers performed their tasks with increasing speed, then the piece suddenly ended.
The premiere piece All Round Me exemplified Sharir's continuing journey into the possibilities of technology and dance. The work began with rich, evocative video images of birds and souls rising from body-shaped white bags hanging from poles. Suddenly, the dancers appeared from underneath and began resting in the bags. Later, as they moved away from the original tableau, the dancers discovered the sensory dance floor, which made various speaking sounds as the dancers stepped on each sensor. The piece promised much and delivered some striking images, but I found myself wanting more interaction between the dancers and the eerie bodybags, and I wanted more integration between the dancing and the video projections. As with all Sharir's high-tech works, there is something there, something that is battling with the current technological limitations to be released.
The concert ended with the premiere of Command-Enter, a substantial group piece which combines new and previous material from 15 years of work. Music resembling a moving train drove the piece as dancers took turns performing frenetically gymnastic solos and duets while their peers looked on, bordered by red squares of light. Dancer Terry Hardy's extraordinary solo set the standard for the other dancers, enticing them to show their own vibrant personalities and strengths during their turns. Sharir entered and began drumming as the music fell away, and the dancers responded with joyous foot-stomping, arm-flinging unison work that roused the audience.
I enjoyed revisiting old Sharir works and hope to see more repertory restaged in the coming years. If anyone is taking requests, I have a few favorites that I would love to see again. -Dawn Davis
MONOTYPES BY JULIANNE BIEHL:MOUNTAINS WITH PERSONALITY
Flatbed Press Gallery,
through May 30
Why do people like art? The intensely subjective answer to this question is varied and random, much like the wildly diverse types of artwork in the world. But one thing is for sure: One aspect of the visual arts that perpetuates people's interest is its ability to present subjects in seemingly limitless variations. One artist's rendition of a fruit bowl can be totally different from another artist's, which is why, after so many paintings of fruit still lifes, an image of a bowl of apples can still be engaging, depending on the artist's ability to explore it in a new way.
It's this element of newness that makes Julianne Biehl's images of the Rocky Mountains so appealing. There's no telling how many artists, photographers, musicians, and poets have found inspiration in the peaks and valleys of America's beloved Rockies — so many that the mountains run the risk of becoming passé as an artistic muse. Yet Biehl's perspective of the range's rivers, rocks, flora, and fauna are refreshingly different from any other version you're likely to see.
The most immediately striking aspect of these works are their vibrant primary colors, which appear to include every hue in a 64-count box of Crayons. Biehl's monotypes are animated and abstracted eye candy, lining the walls like a frenetic comic strip of images. Joltingly bright tints suffuse the canvas in Afternoon Tea Party, with a blue tree nestled against an orange and pink sky, and the ground the color of Skittles thrown into a blender. Although no animals or humans are depicted, this piece has a distinct joviality, like a landscape by Dr. Seuss. The boldness of the colors — and the surprising way they complement each other — gives the works a certain "personality."
This distinct "personality" sets these works apart from other renditions of the Rocky Mountains, and, for that matter, landscapes in general. Biehl succeeds at that element of art that keeps people coming back for more: She gives us a new vision of our surroundings and challenges us to expand our own visual capacity. -Cari Marshall