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'Temper' sets tone of 'Project Synergy'

October 13, 2003|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

Dance as a collaborative art took center stage Friday at Irvine's Barclay Theatre, when Molly Lynch, artistic director of Ballet Pacifica, presented "Project Synergy." Three new works, all connected in some way, were unveiled. The most engaging collaboration, though flawed, was "Blessed Temper," choreographed by Tina Gerstler and set to an original score by Francis Thumm.

This 30-minute suite featured a poetic treatise on the different temperaments of children, written by the choreographer's sister, author Amy Gerstler.

Actress Dana Hooley, looking like a cross between a fairy godmother and a befuddled bride in Linda Davisson's corseted white ball gown, periodically glided around the stage, echoing prerecorded lines such as "Cut yourself and everyone you come into contact with more slack."

"Temper" can also refer to music, and Thumm, who regularly performed with Harry Partch, took cues from the late iconoclast by making use of xylophone, gongs, harp, piano and bleating trombones in a score that frequently stopped abruptly. This caused awkward transitions, although seven dancers ("Tempers," with names such as "Spirited," "Slow to Adapt" and "Intensity") executed energetic solos and duets.

Movement seemed as random as music, as the performance of eight more dancers ("The Tribe") was often overshadowed by Hooley's theatricalized verbiage. Moods ranged from buoyant and pouty to huffy and quirky, but the work would benefit from focus and editing.

Lynch's "Meditations on Integration," a 10-minute piece depicting fitting in, was set to Charles Mingus' music of the same name, featuring instruments created by Partch. The work was ably danced by Gina McFadden, Daniel Salvador, Katherina Von Schonfeldt and Quincy Jacinto, but the theme unfortunately lent the work a dubious air, with performers too pretty in arabesques, plies and pirouettes.

The 10-minute "Building Bridges," choreographed by Lynch and company member Adam Hundt, looked like a Gap commercial gone awry. As Kimberly Olmos spouted some of Gerstler's words that didn't make it into "Blessed" (about a child's need to be left to his own devices, for example, to succeed as an adult bridge-builder), 12 dancers, some robotic, some doing cartwheels and others spinning, made the work feel contrived.

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