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Moving in two cultures

The Asia Pacific Performance Exchange brings artists together to create new pieces, but they failed to fuse.

July 21, 2006|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

The idea behind UCLA's enterprising Asia Pacific Performance Exchange is to bring together Asian and American musicians, dancers and performance artists in a six-week workshop so new pieces, ideas and relationships can emerge.

The hope is to synthesize cultures rather than co-opt them. But that goal proved illusive when 10 works by this summer's 18 artists were presented Wednesday in the first of four programs at the Glorya Kaufman Dance Theater. The others are tonight, Aug. 9 and 11.

The most successful pieces -- which fortunately made up at least half the program -- tended to focus on a single culture or idea. Others looked too short and unfinished to form a conclusion. In the works that attempted a synthesis, an air of easy accommodation prevailed. Nobody ventured into deep or conflicted territory.

Still, Bengali composer Somnath Roy proved dazzling in his "Music From Mud" percussion solo, beating out complex, improvisatory rhythms on a clay pot while collaborators Gregory Acker and Anusha Kedhar -- and soon even the audience -- maintained the basic eight-beat background pattern, which actually broke into five sounded plus three silent beats.

Kedhar, an Irvine-based bharata natyam dancer, also danced "Krishnane Beganay Baro," a solo depicting lovers separated and reunited, with heightened sensuous detail and delight.

Javanese dancer Sriyan Fitri enacted a graceful Sundanese court-servant dance ("Badaya") with poise and ease.

Leonard Cruz, a Philippines-born dancer who grew up in Texas, danced an intriguing improvisatory solo, "Access-o-Graph," exploring flowing arm movements around the body's central axis as he traversed self-imposed restrictive stage patterns.

Javanese composer Dedek Wahyudi offered a too-brief episodic gamelan piece, "Wali." American guitarist Rob Levit played a short, intricate solo to start his "Earth River," which developed into an inconclusive music-text-and-dance piece. Philippine vocalist Grace Nono opened the program with a traditional prayer that could easily fit into a Broadway show, such as "The Lion King."

The theme of this summer's APPEX program is "At Home in the World?" The question mark is an important part of the title, as New York theater artist Kayhan Irani stressed in the second of her two "Audience Interaction Dialogues." She asked audience members to discuss among themselves and later share ideas about what home means and the difficulties of making one.

With bombs bursting at that very moment all over the Middle East, the "all you need is love" answers seemed rather simplistic, but perhaps accurately -- if unfortunately -- characterized the tone that tended to suffuse the first APPEX program.



Where: Glorya Kaufman Dance Theater, UCLA, Westwood

When: 7 p.m. today, Aug. 9 and 11.

Price: $10, $12

Contact: (310) 825-2101,

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