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Lost in translation, but not in choreography

March 26, 2004|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

The Silesian Dance Theatre is a dynamic Polish modern dance troupe whose appearance Wednesday at the Skirball Cultural Center was marred by a certain amount of pre-concert misunderstanding. The evening had been announced under the title "Thoughts That Lie Too Deep for Tears." But the title in the program read "Thoughts That Got Ruffled Much." The first was a mistranslation, according to Skirball program director Jordan Peimer.

That mistake, plus a program note that artistic director Jacek Luminski "bases his movement vocabulary on precise reconstructions of Hasidic ecstatic dancing as well as the everyday movements of more common Jewish ritual," led some people, perhaps not unreasonably, to expect something closer to "Fiddler on the Roof" than what they got. The issue of Jewish dance and identity came up several times in a post-concert question session with Luminski and his seven company members.

Hasidic dance, the choreographer answered, was only the starting point for his vocabulary. Even though he demonstrated some of the derived movements -- hands and arms encircling his head, finger shimmies or palms reaching forward and up -- some questioners didn't seem fully happy with his answers.

All this was a pity because the program itself, even though it had its own mystification, was so strong.

Divided into three parts, it showed a company in which physical control was divided equally between the sexes.

In the opening, "Whatever you do ... ," relationships between men and women resembled competitive matches more than conventionally supportive duos and trios, with each sex reveling in the other's strengths and flexibility. The section then veered unexpectedly and strangely, with the women donning satiny dresses and everyone executing flashy showbiz routines.

The theme of entertainment -- but as entrapment -- was picked up in the middle portion, "The Night of Dew," a demanding gymnastic solo for Tomasz Wesolowski executed largely within a stage-enveloping translucent plastic tent. The plastic, Luminski said during the question session, was meant to suggest a television set.

The final section, "How much of affection ... ," brought back the whole troupe for individual action routines, suggestions of craziness and the building of group architectural constructions. Everything ended abruptly, however, when the front of the tent, which had been lifted earlier, fell shut. The entertainment, apparently, was over.

Although the metaphor wasn't particularly illuminating, the dancers were always at a peak. In addition to Wesolowski, they were Anna Krysiak,Hanna Woczka, Victoria Fox, Sylwia Hefczynska-Lewandowska, Sebastian Zajkoski and Eryk Makohon.

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