States of Grace
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Robi Polgar, Fri., Jan. 24, 2003
States of Grace: Opting for Boldness
McCullough Theatre, Jan. 18
When artistic director Yacov Sharir introduced this Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks 20th anniversary season opener, he spoke of looking to the future of dance and doing it with an eye toward local artists who should be working and creating in the community for a long time to come. Rather than take the easy way out with a year of retrospectives -- a compilation of best-ofs and by-requests -- Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks has boldly opted to produce only new works this season and, on this occasion, new works by choreographers whose various careers have intersected with this forward-looking troupe.
So eight choreographers brought their myriad styles and aesthetic visions to the stage for an eclectic evening of work. From high tech and multimedia experimentation to simple duets to narrative-laced theatricality, there was surely something for everyone in the crowded house.
For enthusiasts of bodies simply in motion, Andrea Beckham provided a lyricism of bodies cascading in her quintet Skin Bubble, while in And So It Goes, Andee Scott created a lovers' duet for fellow S+BD dancers Theresa Hardy and Laura Cannon where yearning for contact battled the need for personal space. Garden of Dreams, by Gina Lalli and danced by the choreographer and José Bustamante in the classical Licknow Kathak dance style of India, was at once simple and highly structured -- a dance of formal gestures and specific moves in tandem -- yet full of mirth, with lovers engaged in play in that magical garden, with ringing bells on their ankles and hints of smiles on their faces.
On the more technical side was Holly Williams' Bolero, set to the 1930 recording by Ravel, with two onstage dancers working solo and together juxtaposed against a video backdrop of the same pair doing the same choreography in a variety of locations from the bucolic to the bizarre. While seriousness and some tension manifested itself in the onstage duet of Molly MacGregor and Scott Marlowe -- with that ceaseless rhythm ever building -- the video countered with sometimes artful, often light-hearted, shots of the dancers in action in a fountain, underwater, in a meadow, in a mall, and so on. Laura Cannon's Transmigration of Angels included phenomenal costumes co-designed by Cannon and Amy Burrell (Cannon's periodesque costumes for Beckham's piece also caught the eye). The dance included some sort of motion-sensitive gadgetry that allowed the dancers and composer Larisa Montanaro to interact; presumably when a dancer moved, that altered the audio, but it was difficult to grasp the correlation between shifts in movement and music until both dancers began moving with more dynamism.
Theresa Hardy's Absurd Heroes took the myth of Sisyphus to something as much performance art as dance: A table and four chairs became the staging ground for Andee Scott and Laura Cannon's emotional exchanges while a large rock on a long rope occasionally was attended to by José Bustamante.
Kent De Spain's martial arts-inspired Sentinel offered one of the strongest stage pictures of the night, but lacked the precision to offset his sound score, a disturbing collage of abusive words and unhappy children.
The piece that stole the show was Allison Orr's Sextet, choreographed for two female dancers, two men, and the men's Seeing Eye dogs. While Celia Hughes described the onstage movement, men, dogs, and dancers moved about the stage, with the women sometimes acting as the men's guides, including the occasional canine tic: The description "Allison scratches shoulder" was met with howls of laughter from an appreciative audience. A final image of a lone dog, crossing for an offstage reunion with his man, provided a heartwarming, optimistic conclusion.
For Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks, and, indeed, the Austin dance community, replete with bold and imaginative choreographers, this is an equally optimistic opening to 2003 and a compilation of creative movement against which the rest of this year's work will have to be measured.