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Dance Review : Agabian, Purple Moon Share Highways Bill

August 05, 1995|LEWIS SEGAL

While restlessly arranging chairs on the stage of Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, performance artist Nancy Agabian shares ironic observations about growing up Armenian American in the unlikely environment of Walpole, Mass. And that's not all:

"My sister is a lesbian, my brother is gay, I'm bisexual and my parents are homophobic," Agabian says, stacking the chairs so they graphically depict various sexual positions. She even sees her family name as a fusion of the words gay and lesbian .

Don't misunderstand. Furniture sex might well be the final frontier, even for Highways, but Agabian's little-girl voice and quizzical mind keep her rambling reminiscences remarkably innocent--and often hilarious. Seen Thursday, "My Gay Family" could be accused of indiscriminate parent-bashing, but Agabian does suggest that she's not easy to live with--and she gives her mom the last word.

*

On the same program, the Purple Moon Dance Company creates a generalized sense of lush, graceful serenity in five solos and duets using American jazz as well as music from Polynesia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Jill Togawa's dancing usually emphasizes the fluid, Hawaiian-style expressivity of her hands, with the emotional values in her "Prayer" solo for a dead brother given no more weight than the glazed lyricism in "Touching the Beauty" earlier on. Everything stays veiled and distant.

A more vibrant performer, Sharon Page Ritchie excels at boneless arm-ripples but reveals major technical limitations in her improvisational belly-dance solo "Raqs Sharqi." Start with those rigid shoulders, for instance. . . .

The two collaborative duets ("Dream Forest" and "Coming to This Place") artfully accommodate Togawa and Ritchie's very different styles and physiques without breaking through to anything deep or distinctive. It's easy to guess why these dancers ended up on the Highways "Ecco Lesbo, Ecco Homo" series, but, in fact, their partnership seems no more Sapphic than the togetherness of the Rockettes or the women's corps in "Swan Lake."

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