Since a feminist sensibility has always been central to modern dance, it came as no surprise that the "Visions" programs, Friday and Saturday in the Japan America Theatre, focused on women's perceptions and states of feeling. More unexpected in this ambitious multi-choreographer dance event, however, was the prevailing sense of isolation.
In her repetitive, hourlong "Solitudes," Emilie Conrad-Da'oud created three slightly overlapping character solos about desperate loneliness. George Landry's wooden set-sculptures objectified the oppression each woman faced--the domestic imprisonment of Marion Scott in the dancelike "Alone"; the crisis of faith experienced by Jane Abbott in the monologue "Spiritus"; the detachment and stifled energy of Sheila Rozann in the gymnastic "Window."
Marion Scott's intense solo "Psalm 1984" developed from weighty groveling to buoyant gestures of affirmation, a statement of one woman's connection to something beyond the personal.
However, shared activity in a religious context was depicted as dehumanized ritual in Scott's intriguing, operatic "Legend" (previously reviewed) and Annamaura Silverblatt's hollow, minimalist "Anonymous Was a Woman." In both, women numbly executed tasks--striking stones or metal poles, bearing bundles--with no relationships possible other than formal, hierarchical ones.
Similarly, Angelia Leung's Tharpian sextet "Two Bits" and Hae Kyung Lee's lyrical quartet "Cirrus" showed males dancing alongside females, but both works deliberately de-emphasized conventional interaction.
Indeed, Leung's dancers moved together at wildly different rates of speed, and "Cirrus" contrasted the parallel motion of two downstage dancers with the intertwining of two all-but-nude "live sculptures" on a platform. Thus separate-but-equal dancing in the here and now dominated the idealized and arguably unreal physical communion of the remote past.
With its veiled figure dancing in front of three scroll paintings, Peggy Cicierska's haunting solo "Rashomon" made that past, and its legacy of conflicting truths, seem even more illusory--and Cicierska seemed to vanish at the end, leaving only her veils and hat.
For magical stagecraft and bleak outlook, though, nothing outclassed Rachel Rosenthal's "Foodchain." Beginning with a film in which people of all races and ages alternately fed and fed upon one another, the piece introduced a spectacular son et lumiere sequence in which Hae Kyung Lee as "Sun/Source" hung suspended in billowing clouds of smoke.
Next came a procession of slithery creatures devouring one another and, for the finale, a scene in which three grande dames in a restaurant ate both their meal and their flirtatious waiter.
By reminding us satirically how we feed and consume others, Rosenthal set the seal on the "Visions" experience: an uneven, often bitter, but always uncompromising venture in dance theater.