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DANCE REVIEW

Gilliland troupe premieres 'Fish Is a Train of Glass'

June 09, 2003|Sasha Anawalt | Special to The Times

It was hard not to miss Patrick Damon Rago in Stephanie Gilliland's company, Tongue, Friday at the Getty Center -- his dancing is nuclear and dangerously overpowering. Without him, though, and because Gilliland choreographs collaboratively with her 10 other dancers, her more subtle, astute impulses showed in the world premiere of "Fish Is a Train of Glass."

"Glass" may be the enigmatic title's most important word, because the piece, which roughly fell into three sections, had a lot to do with seeing and not seeing through things. Part 1 seemed to be about Southern California dance lineage, in particular.

Bella Lewitzky was all over the place, most obviously because Gilliland used one of Lewitzky's former dancers, Diana MacNeil, to help design and construct the costumes, which were in the manner of Rudi Gernreich: stretchy pullover body skins.

Gilliland was referencing a past that was unrelated to her own. In this mind-set, I suddenly glimpsed Denishawn in the flex of a foot. I caught Lester Horton in hinge-lunges. The geometry of the wonderful, clumped Stonehenge shapes reminded me of Merce Cunningham. Which reminded me of Rudy Perez.

In the evolution of Southern California choreographers' continual interest in nature versus man-made phenomena, Gilliland pushes to both extremes more than most. She belongs in the hierarchy with the best.

You can see it in the contrast between a tender duet for Caroline Aizawa and Bryan Wallk and a video of Holly Johnston and Peter Volk in bed, with the camera focusing in and out on their freckles, hair and lips until they were practically dehumanized.

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