UP: Left in the Dark
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Dawn Davis, Fri., Aug. 18, 2000
UP: Left in the Dark
through August 19
Darkness. A lamp turns on and a dancer is silhouetted. The lamp turns off. It turns on. During each switch, the dancer changes her orientation but remains connected to the lamp. Eerie music, provided by Graham Reynolds and Bruce Colson of the Golden Arm Trio, wafts through the still and moderately stuffy air. The use of darkness and light suits the intimate atmosphere of Movements Gallery, which reminds me of one of those mysterious attics filled with wonders that you always see in the movies -- the huge ones that never exist in real life. The space was transformed into a proscenium-style theatre for the debut of UP, the first piece from Spank, Ellen Bartel's new dance company featuring Jenna Weikerth. Spank seems to be pursuing a new direction while maintaining some of the slow-motion sensibility of Bartel's previous venture, The Creeps.
Light becomes a recurrent theme as one dancer illuminates another with flashlights, highlighting the dappled pattern of her blousy overshirt and capturing only glimpses of her body manipulating space. Spinning wildly with the small beams of light, for a moment they resemble fireflies.
It's exciting to watch Bartel move after only experiencing her slow-motion work. Both she and Weikerth are seasoned and committed performers, and the choreography contains moments of lovely counterpoint interlaced with incredibly slow movement and topnotch technique from both dancers.
However, there is also a lot of repetition and murky intention in the work. More than anything, I wanted to know where this enigmatic piece was going. I made some connections to the poem printed in the program, but I never figured out who or what the dancers represented. I have so many questions that did not get answered, and there were all kinds of nooks and crannies in this piece that I wanted to explore.
Because dancers and choreographers don't often have the luxury or the inclination to explain their work verbally, the program becomes their only verbal link to the audience. I ravenously devour mine for any text, poetry, or information that will help me to understand what experience the artist wants me to leave the theatre with and to appreciate the piece more. If the text, poem, etc., is voiced in the piece, reading the written information only enhances my experience. If the dance work springs from the written words, then I have a verbal bulletin board on which to attach the imagery. But just enclosing the poem in the program, in this case, was not enough. The piece needed more clarity in its development and in the program.
There is a great deal of promise and potential in the company. Its manageable size and choice of a small, funky venue is smart. I am excited to see the direction Spank (very cool name, by the way) might go next.