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Music and Dance Reviews : 'In the Works' Offers Newman, Contraband

May 02, 1990|LEWIS SEGAL

Gloria Newman of Orange County and Sara Shelton Mann of the Bay Area each make sprawling group dances that intuitively mix personal testimony, social comment, confrontational dramatics and sheer display. On Sunday, they shared the fourth program of the Dance Gallery's "In the Works" series.

In style, Shelton Mann's Contraband company and the Newman Dance Theatre reflect the different art-making priorities of their regions.

Newman called her evolving "Time/Frames/Window/Stills" an exploration of "how to use magazine format in dance." And, indeed, it continually exploited juxtaposition and contrast, both within individual passages and as it shifted from formal, overlapping solos and duets to intimate, intense sequences involving chairs--and then shifted again into a surging finale.

With its communal music-making and other self-reflexive rituals, Contraband clearly seemed a tribal unit facing inward. Thus Shelton Mann's preachy but curiously out-of-touch "Mira, Cycle I: Excerpts" grew strongest whenever the cast interacted at a high level of engagement. Certainly the engulfing physicality and shared risk of contact improvisation proved Contraband's glory.

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