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WEEEKEND REVIEWS / Dance

At Kaleidoscope '96, a Welcome Aggressive Edge

July 22, 1996|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

It's always tempting to look at the annual Dance Kaleidoscope series as an index of Southern California creative trends when it more accurately reflects the priorities of that year's selection panel.

At worst, academic rectitude reigns. On Friday and Saturday, however, the use of bold percussion accompaniments, the subject of combative relationships and a tough, aggressive style in many of the pieces gave a welcome edge to two different three-hour Kaleido-programs in the Luckman Theater at Cal State L.A.

Most of all, the first two installments of Dance Kaleidoscope '96 belonged to its wonder women--none more wondrous than Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, serenely shimmering through the ancient Cambodian "Buong Suong" solo, or Laila del Monte, consumed by pain as if it were some kind of violent fever in her flamenco showpiece, "1492 Seguirilla."

Female heroism dominated Lisa Townsend's forceful duet "Lurking Beneath the Surface of Conscious Life" in which women supported one another on a perilous journey. Similarly, a woman strong enough to support a dying friend in his farewell to life, and to dance, gave a heroic dimension to the elegiac duet "In Concert With Angels," choreographed by Licia Perea and the late Arthur Armijo.

However, most of the relationships depicted on Friday and Saturday proved anything but supportive. For example, Nancy McCaleb stripped the singles-bar cruising scene to sardonic postmodern manipulation rituals in "Last Disco" and Hae Kyung Lee drew an even gloomier picture by focusing on the spiritual isolation and paralysis of wallflowers wearing party dresses (not all of them women) in "No Room to Move."

Insanity invaded the secretarial pool in Monica Favand's off-the-wall theater piece, "Carpal Tunnel," and both Kitty McNamee and Pallas Sluyter also explored desperation-unto-madness in deliberately lurid, pop-influenced duets about being stuck with alternately brutal and wasted lovers: "Fire in Oven" and "soul-o;,G.I . . . " (sic).

Splendidly performed by Suchi Branfman, the Liz Lerman solo "Journey" translated a spoken text into inventive motion-modules: highly specific gestures and body-sculpture. Karen J. Woo made fun of the process in "Try It!" but not without inventing a sign language of her own.

Tap specialist Linda Sohl-Donnell and Irish traditional dancer Annee Albritton each displayed fast, intricate footwork in their flashy double-solos, while Sohini Ray matched refined technique with great delicacy in Guru Bipin Singh's traditional Manipuri "Krishna Nartan" solo from India.

The most satisfying new choreography by a mere male on either program came from Lewitzky veteran Walter Kennedy, who linked three downbeat depictions of relationships under the title "Fault Boundaries." His gladiatorial opening and sex-war finale proved conventionally adept, but the central woman's section had a daring originality.

Kaleidoscope men's solos included striking, energetic and utterly incomprehensible new works by Michael Mizerany ("Bump in the Road," brilliantly physicalized) and Samuel Donlavy ("Chasing Fences," overwhelmingly intense). A reconstruction of Rudy Perez's icy 1975 "Equinox-Run" demonstrated the exemplary concentration and control of Victor Quijada.

Juxtaposing ballet with less highfalutin' movement forms, Charles Maple and Michele Bachar strained to make classicism look contemporary--Maple with the gymnastics of "Fall of the Feet," Bachar with the hip hop of "Acid Barbie" for Dance Electric. Neither achieved any real stylistic fusion.

Despite the sharpest execution the company has yet offered at Dance Kaleidoscope, Ballet Folklorico del Pacifico suffered from too many false endings to its "Nuevo Leon" suite credited to Jose Vences. Also on view: Diavolo Dance Theater's previously reviewed "Man-Made."

Missing from Dance Kaleidoscope for the first time in eight years: artistic director Don Hewitt, confined to bed with a strained back.

* Dance Kaleidoscope '96 continues at 8 p.m. Saturday in the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. Tickets: $18, $12 (students, seniors). (213) 466-1767.

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