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DANCE REVIEW : Choreographer Karen Goodman at Cal State L.A.

March 20, 1993|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE WRITER

Alone onstage at the Cal State L.A. Playhouse on Thursday, locally based dancer-choreographer Karen Goodman steps forward, her hands urgently reaching out, her weight suddenly shifting to the side as she pulls away--back and down--before thrusting forward again.

Part of a new 12-minute Goodman solo called "Markings," this movement cycle picks up new facets as it grows, evolving in the direction of formal dancing without ever arriving, just as Goodman's breath-rhythms develop toward singing.

Inspired by New Mexico cave drawings, the piece depicts the process of creation--of honing natural body-sound and motion into kinetic inscriptions. By the end, she's moving quickly, sharply, not so much painting her image in space as boldly carving it there.

All the repetitions leave an afterimage of focused turbulence, of someone with something to share about her life and time, someone anxious to leave her mark.

The newly revised version of her 40-minute solo "The Thirteen Levels of Desire" finds Goodman still dancing to breath but concerned more with identity than the creative process. Here she seems to experience deeply the simplest physical tasks as if they held some profound secret.

Thus the action of slowly sinking to the floor becomes an intense, suspenseful test of balance, muscular control and accommodation to gravity. Goodman takes nothing for granted and so fully invests herself in such passages that they become genuine performance events, rich with metaphysical implication.

A section midway through shows Goodman attempting to define herself verbally as she confronts the demeaning questions about ethnicity that prove inescapable these days on funding applications in the arts. Dwarfed by slide projections of her printed text, she rejects systems of artist evaluation and art itself that, "give us sound bites as answers."

She embraces her Jewishness but, with an invigorating sense of irony, labels herself "Artist-American." While she dances, she makes that designation the only one that matters.

The performances of Goodman's solos conclude tonight.

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