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Weekend Reviews | Dance Review

Testing Limits of the Body, the Art

July 20, 1998|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

In a society responding to both the AIDS crisis and the rebirth of Puritanism, it's no surprise to find artists caught up in hatred of the body, its needs, limits, decay. This theme unified a strange six-part Dance Kaleidoscope program on Saturday in the Luckman Theatre at Cal State L.A., a program in which dancers were often deliberately endangered or oppressed by their choreographies. Moreover, many of the pieces revealed a profound distrust of dance as an expressive art.

Hairless and naked, Hannah Sim and Mark Steger of Osseus Labyrint hung upside-down by their heels high above the stage throughout "Gordian(Not)," managing spectacular undulations and deployments of dead weight but never creating a pattern or process that could make the duet seem more than a punitive exercise in non-dance motion construed as dance.

Jacques Heim's Diavolo Dance Theatre also put a couple at risk in "Capture," with Darren Press chained inside a violently rolling aluminum bowl and Lara Hudson continually dodging that bowl and then leaping inside for brief gymnastic trysts. Gymnastics also replaced dance in the excerpt from Michael Mizerany's satiric "Bound," with tiny Madeline Soglin tirelessly, fearlessly tussling with Mizerany and Roger Gonzalez Hibner, luring the latter into a death trap. So much for modern romance--and modern dance.

In Rosanna Gamson's "Vessel," to a lush score by Shane W. Cadman, Gamson and Winifred Harris danced inside a kind of corral, executing assaultive, exhausting semaphore but periodically expressing their mutual dependency through passages of realistic pantomime. Dance thus became a kind of monstrous duty, and mime the revelation of human feelings.

Victoria Marks seemed on the same track in "Dancing to Music," a quartet to music by Wim Mertens that severely restricted the use of space and motion. Quasi-military turns of head replaced choreography and relationships developed through intimate gestural interplay. As with Gamson's duet, these relationships seemed deep and abiding, but conventional dancing played no part in their definition.

Not long ago, Stephanie Gilliland belonged in the vanguard of engulfing, anti-dance physicality, but on Saturday her sextet "Souliers de Plomb" came the closest to affirming standard terpsichorean values. It actually had steps. It showed dancers proudly filling space and exulting in their prowess. And it stretched and stylized feats of gymnastics into positional motifs: idealized body sculpture.

Reactionary? Perhaps, but also redemptive, reacquainting us with a realm of movement expression free of bizarre conditions for dance, special effects that take the place of dance and elaborately codified reasons not to dance.

* Dance Kaleidoscope resumes Friday at 8 p.m. in the Japan America Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St., downtown. $12-$18. (213) 343-MOVE. On Saturday, a one-hour family program takes place at 10 a.m. in the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hollywood. $7. At 8 p.m., the Amphitheatre hosts the 1998 Kaleidoscope finale. $12-$18. (213) 461-3673.

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