Dispatches From the Edge

Rounding Up the 2001 FronteraFest Long Fringe

Dispatches From the Edge
Photo By Bret Brookshire

7 Rooms to the Soul

by Ariel Dance Theatre

The Off Center

Running Time: 1 hr, 20 min

By the time we arrived to see Ariel Dance Theatre's 7 Rooms to the Soul, there was no room at the inn, so they squeezed us in on the side of the risers. Some of the dancing was lost due to the angle, but we didn't miss a moment of the multimedia feast for the eyes. There were several screens thoughtfully placed in the Austin Lyric Opera's Ducloux Hall and these screens featured sophisticated film montages combining computer graphics, video footage of the dancers, and simple, but gorgeous film loops that resembled pink light reflecting on water. We had the best seats, however, for the brilliant melding of Ariel's slow-motion roller skating lady, a recurring character throughout the performance, with looping footage of bridge structures whipping past her.

The dancers alternately resembled whirling dervishes or otherworldly beings in black, pieced-together overdresses. Legs jabbing through space, slashing arms, and powerful linear lines belied a softer underlayer of three-dimensional carving movements and the delicate pinks and reds of the costumes hidden beneath. One by one, each dancer disrobed to reveal the human aspect of himself/herself and was pulled back into the fold and re-robed in the black overdress.

Incorporated within the performance was the Golden Arm Trio, this time six members strong, providing a mix of discordant percussive and melodic music perfectly attuned to the action onstage, and four Austin Lyric Opera singers, also dressed in black overdresses, who alternately framed the action onstage and wandered around and even through the audience.

There were lovely moments threaded throughout the show, but the pace and spirit often faltered -- bogged down amid lengthy cycles and repetitions for each of the seven dancers. Choice moments included framing the stage with silent, breathing walls of prone bodies and three hat ladies performing successive canons with fluid, floating arms and earthbound, scooting feet followed by a male echo of the locomotion across the stage. Particularly riveting was the engaging technical prowess and confrontational posture of dancer Whitney Hocke, who performed a brief looping phrase of percussive shudders before collapsing into an embrace. Kudos to Ariel and crew for creating a gobo-studded, beautifully lighted, and media-rich environment for the dancers and for producing glimmers of dance-theatre in the Bausch tradition -- a new direction, perhaps? (Thursday, Feb. 1, 7:30pm; Friday, Feb. 2, 5:30pm; Saturday, Feb. 3, 9:15pm; Sunday, Feb. 4, 7pm)

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