Far from radical in both its feminist stance and its use of post-modern techniques, Commotion didn't kick up much of a fuss in a six-part program Thursday at the House. Indeed, the name of this 4-year-old, four-woman, New York-based company ought to read "Co(llaborative)-Motion," for creative interaction seemed more its raison d'etre than any thematic/kinetic frissons.
Commotion dabbled in pop dancing with Susan Hogan's "Make It" (music by Julie Brown), a solo that juxtaposed fast, prancy moves to drugged slumps and gestural motifs suggesting missed connections and blocked communication. No real edge here either of characterization or social commentary--but intimations of each.
The company took on text dancing--a chic but risky post-modern subgenre--in Barbara Fleming's "Quantity" solo and "Turbulence" duet, adding lots of semaphoric emphasis (but no notable insights or depth) to excerpts from Susan Griffin's book, "Woman and Nature/The Roaring Inside Her."
Less fashionable but more compelling, Fleming's sinewy "Mutagenesis" solo (music by Frank Becker) capitalized on her expertise as a dancer in sustained, smoothly evolving torso undulations and asymmetrical reaching/twisting limb actions.
For hyperextended phrases and seamless transitions, however, nothing matched Meg Jolley's formal, linear trio "Airplay" (music by Karl Kohn). Here Jolley, Fleming and Patty Shenker danced from the same impetus--on the same breath--and thus stretched the breadth of their gentle, linked arm movements beyond what any one of them might have achieved alone.
Like Jolley, Shenker was a guest with the company and, in "Clara's Lament," she contributed the most conventional piece on the program: a character portrait of Clara Schumann, the sorrowful, dedicated widow of the composer Robert Schumann. Unconvincing in its mixture of expressive gesture and stylized, rather artsy dancing, it was capably performed by the choreographer.
Mixing snippets of text, music, playacting, and theater games, Fleming and Hogan's wry "Egg in the Face" again demonstrated Commotion's addiction to trendy concepts and methods--and its inability to create anything really distinctive from them. The subject this time was ecological determinism, the example a Chinese island where chickens and mice and cats and dogs all steadfastly refused to eat (or be eaten) in quite the way that bureaucrats decreed.
Wearing quasi-Mandarin pajama-suits, Hogan, Jolley and Shenker mimed energetically and executed such specialties as a playful ribbon dance adroitly. But the components of this mock-Chinese food-chain parable never came together. Bright parts, dim sum.