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'The Next Wave': We've entered a new Dark Age

Highways launches a six-part program that conveys a general sense of disintegration.

October 01, 2005|Lewis Segal | Times Staff Writer

If curator Arianne MacBean takes seriously the title of the intriguing six-part modern dance program that opened Thursday at Highways Performance Space, we can expect "The Next Wave" of locally based choreographers to focus on a society falling apart: people hopelessly enraged, terrified, alienated or reduced to the status of refugees.

Rebellion isn't an option, just fixing the blame and counting the casualties. The zeitgeist embraced by these dance-makers (all new to Highways) is a kind of sardonic Dark Age, an era pervaded by the sense of being cheated. Of the future permanently foreclosed.

In her lushly danced solo "Ever Brighter," J'aime Morrison initially tears at a book, but soon -- accompanied by a reading of a Samuel Beckett prose poem -- she indulges fleeting memories of a happier past (glimpses, on film, of an unidentified young man). That's as positive as it gets.

Taisha Paggett's cyclical solo "the dreamer/tenuous" makes memories into random eruptions: intense sound effects, a sudden telltale pose and one outburst of incoherent speech. Suffering and on the verge of collapse, the soloist struggles for control, often faltering but always beginning anew and just maybe making a little headway against her demons.

Otherwise, we're plunged into a grim world that Sarandon Cassidy's deft, relatively conventional trio "The Order of Things" portrays as populated by the forgotten, futureless poor: down-and-out wanderers huddled together protectively, numbed by endless deprivation.

Joanna Wiederhorn's film "False Alarm" depicts the opposite end of the social spectrum as unhinged to the point of madness by fears about homeland security. Using a cadre of dancers to embody various stages in terrorism alerts, Wiederhorn shows how being all suited up for biochemical disaster won't guard you against emotional disintegration.

With its dancers noisily stepping across sheets of bubble wrap into shadow- or mirror-matchups, Maggie Lee's downbeat "Duet no. 17: Trapped Air" might possibly be interpreted as an abstraction of insularity -- people obsessed with their space, their moves, their look. But without a real ending, a fault other pieces on the program share, it plays primarily as a novelty act.

In "Romp," Sharon Jakubecy deftly pilots nine dancers -- including the only men on the program -- through what amounts to an action painting of a narcissistic, vicious and even murderous contemporary culture intent on pointing the finger at the audience for whatever is hateful in life.

Weapons of mass destruction -- that's them. Or us, if you believe those fingers are pointed in the right direction.


'The Next Wave'

Where: Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica

When: 8:30 tonight

Price: $15

Contact: (310) 315-1459

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