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Love, moving in mysterious ways

Maria Gillsepie's Oni Dance gives full rein to passion in a stirring three-part performance at REDCAT.

June 27, 2005|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

Jaded love. Faded love. Degraded love. Isn't love, after all, what makes the world go round? It was for locally based dancer-choreographer Maria Gillespie on Friday, as her Oni Dance took the big "L" to its outer limits at REDCAT at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The three-part program, prickling with kinetic intensity, probed the zeniths and nadirs of unbridled passion.

The evening's centerpiece, "Imperfection/Unsung," a 45-minute investigation of memory and desire as filtered through the company's eight dancers, began with the troupe in butoh-like posturing, each performer in a pool of light. Set to a montage of music that included the inventive String Theory, Gillespie, in shrewd nods to high camp and romanticism, also threw in some Jacques Brel, Wayne Newton (yes, the original "Danke Schoen" dude) and Eric Satie.

On Planet Gillespie -- where improvisation is a launching pad for same-sex partnering, with push-pull gambits and fantastic lifts -- the landscape also yielded crisp, cool barefoot bourrees, and the thud of bodies slamming to the floor remained a fiercely melancholic motif. The uber-arched backward bend, another Gillespie staple, was also beautifully executed by Lillian Bitkoff, Alesia Young and Noelli Bordelet.

While Carlos Rodriguez and Chris Stanley may have been outnumbered, they weren't outdanced: Equally at home with high kicks and rapid turns, the duo reveled in the estrogen of slithery, steamy women but thought nothing of tossing them aside after having had their way with them. Various groupings -- including trios and quartets -- continued to maintain a tough-love stance, with Gillespie making each of her many entrances with a slow, determined walk, a half-smile on her knowing, pixieish face.

But as provocative as "Imperfection/Unsung" is, with Kim Palma's lighting design upping the brooding quotient, it could benefit from some editing, notably the section with folding chairs, a seemingly inescapable prop in both the jazz and modern dance worlds.

Gillespie's "Precipice," a premiere danced by String Theory co-founder Holly Rothschild, was an ideal length: five minutes. Feet rooted to the ground, the statuesque performer sought the unknown, alternately crouching, crab-walking, and rising on her toes, urgently beckoning with long, muscled arms. Completing the program was the work-in-progress "Visitation," a commanding duet by the ever-evolving Gillespie with former Tongue member Holly Johnston.

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