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Dance Review

Dratewka's 'Space' Tour Is a Movable Piece

May 08, 1999|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

Memorable site-specific performance art not only disrupts the standard relationship among performer, spectator and theatrical space but also mediates between documentary reality and the creative imagination. Using the format of a nighttime walking tour through downtown Los Angeles, David Dratewka's "Finding Space" most often settles for less, using its sites as nonspecific backdrops for prefab performance events that would work as well elsewhere--even in a theater.

On Thursday, the tour began in California Plaza, with perky guide "Gabrinaa" (a.k.a. Tracy Hudak) cheerfully delivering fake factoids about the area--including the news that some of our most cherished cultural institutions are secret missile silos and toxic-waste dumps. On a grassy mound backed by a chain-link fence on Olive Street, Nancy Agabian launched "Homebody, Homefire," a rambling but frequently trenchant monodrama that linked her experiences in various homes with the displacement of the Armenian population of Turkey in 1915 to get at larger issues of belonging to a place, a family, a people.

In a parking structure nearby, Shel Wagner and four others danced "Hanger," which occasionally used the building's architecture choreographically but usually depended on contact improvisation duets of impressive stamina and muscle power.

Along the slab-pools behind the Museum of Contemporary Art, composer Nathan Birnbaum's "Romances" found Ken Roht and the spectacularly versatile Karole Foreman singing in styles ranging from academic art-song to crass Broadway showstopper.

None of these pieces drew much from--or added much to--their settings. However, throughout the evening Sherwood Chen and Dona Leonard kept turning up as "neighborhood beings"--writhing and wailing in an alley under huge, noisy air-vents or forming sinewy sculptures in a small, grassy park or passionately clinging to one another amid the exploding fountains of California Plaza--always melding with their environments in intriguing emotional statements that made the city at night seem a strange new world.

* "Finding Space" continues tonight and Sunday at 8 p.m., starting at the Marina Pavilion in California Plaza, 350 S. Grand Ave., $15. (323) 665-2356.

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