The Austin Chronicle

Arts Reviews

Reviewed by Barry Pineo, September 12, 2008, Arts


The Off Center, through Sept. 13

Running time: 1 hr, 10 min

Every once in a while, I see something extraordinarily beautiful in a theatre, and – for some reason that totally eludes me – it's a rare occurrence. Individual perception plays a part, of course,

but when I think back on the live theatrical events I've seen this year, I can only recall one instance in which I saw something that even verged on beautiful. I've seen lots of ugly, harsh, hard, and even stupid things and a few cruel and inhuman things, as well as more than a few sweet, gentle, loving things. But beautiful? No, not really. At least not until Friday, Sept. 5, while watching Ariel Dance Theatre's Five.Two.Ten.

Many of the beautiful things in this offering are easy to spot. The most obvious involve the dances between Andrea Ariel, the artistic director, choreographer, and lead dancer in the pieces, and Steve Ochoa, Ariel's only male dancer. They do a series of dances in which we see a relationship develop, disintegrate, and then reintegrate, and two parts in particular stand out, one of which I'll mention now – when Ochoa holds Ariel, gracefully and appropriately, parallel to his body and spins her through the air so quickly, it's a wonder she can get back on her feet and move – and one I'll get to later.

Numerous dances surround the Ochoa-Ariel works, three of which impress, although for different reasons. "The Meeting and the Trick" and "Busy Women Are Busy" are both comic dances, the former a Chaplinesque piece about giving and taking with Ariel and Adriene Mishler and the latter a frenetic yet entirely entertaining dance involving Jennifer Hilman, Teresa Tipping, and Christine Wong having amazingly busy, full days. Both pieces evoke laughter – not an easy feat for dance. Not quite as successful is "Consumed," in which Hilman, Tipping, and Wong wallow in costumes constructed from plastic shopping bags. In this piece, the evening's organizing idea – the impact that one life can have on another, even in the briefest period of time – is not apparent even on reflection. Add a strange lack of energy, most likely caused by the dancers being swallowed in plastic, and you have the only misstep in an enterprise following nothing else but sure and successful paths.

The technical aspects of the production totally support – indeed, enhance in every way imaginable – the beauty inherent in the dances. In the first piece, "In Five to Ten ...," Nick Keene and Colin Lowry's projections open a door on the huge screen which serves as a backdrop. Out of the door emerge both Ariel and her own silhouette. As Ariel performs live, her silhouette watches, and the effect is magical, almost as if we are observing a three-dimensional video projection performing for itself. Just as impressive is the final dance of the evening, and while I don't want to give too much away, suffice it to say that the projections combine with another Ariel-Ochoa dance, the always present, truly outstanding music of Peter Stopschinski and Graham Reynolds, and the finest lighting design I've ever seen by Jason Amato to create something original, moving, and, yes, extraordinarily beautiful.

Don't miss it.

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