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An overabundance of ambition

October 10, 2005|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

Dancer-choreographer Paula Present, artistic director of locally based Ptero Dance Theatre, has something to say. Much of the time, however, it gets lost in the clutter of her trying-too-hard-to-please choreography, where more is less, but a lot less would be preferable.

That said, the six-part concert, "At the Entrance of an Idea," seen Friday at Highways Performance Space, did deliver an occasional bang and much stellar dancing. In her 2004 duet, "Scrape," Present plumbed the territory of grief, compounded by the use of Henryk Gorecki's elegiac Third Symphony, a work that has, like Barber's "Adagio for Strings," become an anthem for loss.

As if pushing pain away with her hands, Present would then hunch over, head to knees, before offering a keening, chest-beating motif. Soon joined by Shannon Harris, recruited to assuage hurt, the duo swayed spoon-style, their crossed legs and arms ultimately becoming a cipher for raw emotions.

Present's premiere, "Lifeline," set to Meredith Monk's vocalese, explored sign language and dance as forms of communication but failed to, well, communicate an integrated concept. Filip A. Condeescu, Chelsea Gilbert and Nicole La Cour used sweeping arm gestures, karate-esque kicks and spinning as counterpoint to the signings of Kalen Feeney and Lexi Marman.

A trio of solos, "Woman in There Somewhere" (2004), had Gilbert exhibiting yogic flair, La Cour fusing bits of bharata natyam with one-leg balancing, and Present, in allegro mode, whirling and leaping. Alas, Ariel Blumenthal's neo-Muzak score undercut any depth on display.

Rogelio Lopez G. comported himself with frenzied finesse in the premiere of "The Prodigal Son," part of a reworked suite, "Where the Body Ends" (2004). Also new in that suite: "Orpheus and Eurydice," with Lopez G., in uber-angst mode, deftly partnering Sarandon Cassidy.

Present's stab at humor, the work in progress "Ixsay i-bay Elshay (Six by Shel)," was a hodgepodge of flailing. Completing the program: Present's over-emoting opus addressing war, the reworked "Breath Among Ruins 2005." It might behoove the ambitious artist to take an occasional breath herself.

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