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Art, movement coalesce in 'Spirit'

June 07, 2004|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

Degas painted tutu-clad ballerinas, Muybridge photographed galloping horses, and painter Jean Edelstein seemed to combine the forms at Highways Performance Space on Friday night. In a magical program titled "Spirit Dances 8: Blank Canvas," conceived and directed by Marion Scott, Edelstein splashed likenesses of several of the performers, many of them elderly, on a white-papered wall as they danced.

Unfortunately, the 81-year-old Scott was hospitalized, but through her keen directorial eye and choreographic finesse, her magisterial spirit shone. Diane Takamine-Shigekawa evoked the doyenne in "On Being Alive," a solo Scott was to have performed. With her feet planted firmly on the stage, the dancer's smallest moves -- a hip wiggle, a finger flutter, a raised head -- conveyed huge joy as music by Bach soared in accompaniment.

Roberta Wolin-Manker began her piece, "Emerging," crawling on the floor as Edelstein evoked her on canvas with swift, bold strokes. Set to a Phillip Glass score, the work then featured Wolin-Manker rising and shedding an outer layer of long black fabric to reveal a short diaphanous gown. Free to revel in trance spinning, she was buoyant, and Edelstein's final mural captured the ineffable, lyric beauty of a body in motion.

Craig Ng's "Deeper Than Roots," a tai chi-like meditation with an Asian-inspired soundtrack, initially had Edelstein contemplating Ng, who then swooped fluidly from one crouched-knee posture to another. The artist's masterful completed portraits echoed the dancer's noble expression.

In "The Invisible Worm," choreographed and performed by Allegra Fuller Snyder, the dancer assayed a startling array of crucifixion poses to music by Benjamin Britten.

On the lighter side: Gary Bates, in Buster Keaton mode, performed his "70 W. Field St.," a quirky tribute to lost love.

The finale, "Everybody Wants," created and directed by Emile Hassan Dyer (who also played percussion), showcased five dancers cavorting happily as Edelstein dolloped red paint on plexiglass -- a canvas far from blank.

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