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Dance Review

Water Ballet 'Mariners' Makes Most of Its Location

September 18, 2000|VICTORIA LOOSELEAF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

While the Olympic torch recently lighted up Sydney, a torch also helped illuminate "Ancient Mariners," a wet and wonderful work that Hae Kyung Lee and Dancers performed at California Plaza's Watercourt on Saturday. Commissioned by Grand Performances (and part of its free series), this site-specific world premiere gave new meaning to the words "water ballet." Move over, Esther Williams.

Indeed, the nine dancers, moving fluidly and trance-like to the live sounds of Steve Moshier's original score (energetically played by his Liquid Skin ensemble), made glorious use of the fountains and surrounding pool in this meditation on the powers of water. While Moshier built his music around a smattering of notes, Lee's highly watchable choreography followed synchronized suit.

Loosely divided into three parts, the opening found the nine dancers on the fountains' top tier, clinging to the walls and at times resembling a bas-relief; the water a constant source of visual and aural pleasures. Soloist James Kelly moved from slow, Butoh-like sculptural poses to more kinetic gesturing, his arms floating ballet-like.

As Moshier's elemental chords took flight, so too did the fountains, spurting and dancing in kaleidoscopic patterns like liquid fireworks, the dancers shifting and turning, often on bent knees.

After this orgasmic display, a torch-bearing Miguel Olvera pulled in a small wooden boat with Claudia Lopez and Jill Yip aboard. The trio then performed a series of acrobatic moves, replete with powerful one-armed cartwheels and balancing positions not unlike those seen at Cirque du Soleil.

The finale of this 50-minute opus had the entire company--including Kishisa Ross, Derrick Jones, Jose Ramos, Paula Miyashiro and Henry X. Mendez--emerging from the water flaunting fish from their mouths as they "swam" slowly toward the audience, rising in unison amid 300 white balloons.

Chris A. Flores' provocative lighting and Lee's flesh-colored maillots also upped the hypnotics ante.

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