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Spectrum 14 looks too familiar

With a few interesting exceptions, the showcase of short works fails to leap past the been-there, done-that.

February 03, 2003|Jennifer Fisher | Special to The Times

A string of 15 dances from local choreographers who have no more in common than the fact that their pieces are short becomes a somewhat strange parade. You tend to crave refreshment in the form of a surprising idea, one true gesture, or something that just looks good in a nutshell.

At the Ivar Theatre in Hollywood on Saturday night, these elements were rare but not entirely absent in Spectrum 14, the latest of a quarterly series of such potpourri events, presented by Brockus Project Dance Company.

For instance, there was the reliably askew Lisa K. Lock in her "Silent Dialogue," staring out starkly from an oversized metal frame, illuminating her smooth, gaunt head and her wreathing hands by controlling three lights attached to the frame. And there were the six self-possessed flamenco women of Sarah Bashir's "Solea por Buleria," pouring through lyrical unison movements with onstage singer and musicians. Two ballet duets looked sleek in different postmodern moods. "Immortal Beloved," by Marie de la Palme, relied heavily on Beethoven, inventive lifts and the sensitive performances of Wendy Harber and Robert Lee. The lean, mean mechanics of Robert Gilliam's "Chained Heat" excerpt also looked sharp, thankfully separated from the long, self-indulgent piece that premiered at the Alex last month.

Emotional yearning and melancholy had their way in several works, often evoked easily by pop songs, violins or soaring synthesizer and often becoming mired in pretty but repetitive rising and sinking, reaching and collapsing. In Kenji Yamaguchi's "Deep Inside of Me," to a Bjork song, Kana Miyamoto looked elegantly tethered to an earthbound sorrow; while Terry Beeman's "The Giving" had Natalie Merchant for atmosphere, as he and four other dancers swept through a kind of swinging and floating unease.

Another Bjork lament accompanied Mandy Moore's "Unravel," danced by Kersten Todey, who did little more than get untangled from and wrap herself again in a red string. A similarly truncated piece in another key was Ellen Rosa's "Flame," an unremarkable post-Balanchine trio for three women in unflattering red satin tunics. Paul Taylor's adagio mood seemed to be an inspiration for Lauren Winslow Kearns' "Quartet," a decorative music visualization to Baroque selections.

Most of these works, all lasting from two to 10 minutes, were premieres or made in the last few years. The smooth-stepping "Danzoneras," by Gustavo Gonzalez, for instance, was first seen in his AguaLuna Dance Company's Ford Amphitheatre appearance in 2002 (the piece still stretches one concept a bit too far).

Another group piece, Karin Lynge Jensen's "Garden of Pomegranates," listed as a "work-in-progress," also lacked development but used bharata natyam influences interestingly.

In the "too much, too fast, too cool for school" category, Josie E. Walsh's "Particles" had a mishmash (as opposed to a productive combination) of styles and a lot of manic thrusting in aerobic overdrive. Although the three men in the piece sometimes gave it focus with street-dancing skill and savvy, a strutting, Broadway-tough attitude for the women -- just this side of believable -- prevailed. In Cati Jean's "Revelation," too many one-dimensional moods were wedged into three fragmentary sections.

With some exceptions, Spectrum 14 trod extremely familiar ground, without the hint of truly inventive exploration or gemlike appeal. Certainly, the extraordinarily underdone ballroom duets that closed the program (Roscoe Farnsworth's "I Live for You" and presenter Deborah Brockus' own entry "Algerian" -- think "Barbie does Orientalism") didn't help.

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