Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company's More or Less

This dance, performed to Steve Reich's Drumming in its entirety, had rhythms moving the dancers and moving through them


Dancers (foreground) and percussionists in More or Less (Photo by Stephen Pruitt)

More or Less

Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd.
May 21, 3pm

I've seen perhaps a dozen dances set to recorded excerpts of Steve Reich's Drumming, but until Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company's More or Less, with choreography by Hamrick and Drumming performed live by line upon line percussion (the trio was fleshed out by nine guest musicians), I hadn't heard the piece performed live in its entirety. In a world that is increasingly a sea of extracts, wholes are more significant and wondrous than ever. Intactness is a miracle. Cover-to-cover is a revelation.

Reich's Drumming is an indisputable argument for the unabridged. Rhythms are layered with distinct groups of instruments: bongos played with sticks, marimbas underscored with women's voices, glockenspiels accompanied by whistling and a piccolo, and the whole otherworldly ensemble. Each of the four sections begins simply and builds as notes are added, old rhythms fading into the background as new ones surface – a progression that is unnerving in life but thrilling in music. Hamrick's expert small-group morphing illuminated in movement the music's diametric actions: substitute and replace, collect and diffuse, bring to front and send to back. As the nine dancers shape-shifted and kaleidoscoped, the rhythms drove them to move but also moved through them, suggesting that slow movement to a fast beat is less a juxtaposition than it is attendance to the microscopic rhythms within and around us.

Hamrick has an enviable ensemble, perhaps partly because she's so egalitarian. Without making the work seem like a showcase, she gave each of her dancers a place in the sun, whether in a revelatory pairing, like that of Mariclaire Gamble and D. Poet Powell, both wonderfully lanky thrashers who stand out in crowds, or in a solo section, such as the one that allowed us to focus on cool but quick-to-fire Alyson Dolan, her focus directed neither inward nor outward but toward the same intangible place as the sound.

Hamrick's dancers are adept at playfulness, too, which was moderate but never far away in More or Less. Reich composed Drumming in 1970-71, a time period I happen to be particularly interested in because that's when my house was built. This was a time when people laid vinyl floor tiles embossed with reptile-skin patterns, when pass-throughs hid the work of kitchens, when husbands hung clumsy, oversized windowboxes for their wives' geraniums. Hamrick's costumes – including geranium-red funnel-necked dresses and daffodil-colored crocheted tops – and Stephen Pruitt's unabashed lighting, shed in red, yellow, blue, and purple from lights affixed to metal towers or dangling by their cords from the ceiling, gave us the period's warmth and embrace of garishness. The dancers smiled at each other and at us, as though from the pages of a vintage sewing-pattern catalog. What does this early Seventies visual sensibility tell us about Drumming, and what does Drumming say about my windowboxes? These questions are fun to entertain, perhaps more so than to answer.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company
Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company’s <i>Company</i>
Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company’s Company
In this short works program, the troupe explored the solace and thrills in the company you keep

Jonelle Seitz, June 15, 2018

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company's <i>Glacier</i>
Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company’s Glacier
As an elegy to the ice, this dance aestheticized doom but left us plenty of edge

Jonelle Seitz, June 9, 2017

More line upon line percussion
line upon line percussion's <i>The city wears a slouch hat</i>
line upon line percussion's The city wears a slouch hat
John Cage and Kenneth Patchen's experimental radio play proved an ideal vehicle for the creative daredevils of line upon line and the Rude Mechs to revive together

Robert Faires, Dec. 7, 2018

line upon line: <i>first</i>
line upon line: first
In the percussion trio's concert of new works, four pieces took very different forms, but all resolved in a comparable calm

Robert Faires, Feb. 10, 2017

More Arts Reviews
Zach Theatre's <i>Hedwig and the Angry Inch</i>
Zach Theatre's Hedwig and the Angry Inch
This revival gives the trans singer's identity crisis a punk lullaby with rockin' style

Robert Faires, Feb. 22, 2019

Mary Moody Northen Theatre's <i>The Three Musketeers</i>
Mary Moody Northen Theatre's The Three Musketeers
A contemporary script, powerful acting, and fantastic swordplay combine to create a heroic journey that's fun and easy to get lost in

Trey Gutierrez, Feb. 22, 2019

More by Jonelle Seitz
Blue Lapis Light's <i>Belonging, Part One</i>
Blue Lapis Light's Belonging, Part One
The work's dancers, whether on the ground or sailing through the air, were beacons of human hope and empathy

Sept. 28, 2018

Aztlan Dance Company's <i>The Enchilada Western: Texas Deep Fried</i>
Aztlan Dance Company's The Enchilada Western: Texas Deep Fried
In the troupe's latest choreodramas, dancing desperados persisted and partied

Aug. 31, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, line upon line percussion, Steve Reich, Drumming, D. Poet Powell, Mariclaire Gamble, Alyson Dolan, Stephen Pruitt

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle