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Beeman aims high and deep

January 29, 2007|Lewis Segal | Times Staff Writer

Terry Beeman is a dancer-choreographer adept at both playful nightclub raunch and deeply sculpted, technically sophisticated movement theater. In "The Closing," this protean, locally based artist brought to the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center a meditative, evening-long spectacle at once virtuosic and spiritual, sometimes focused on trapeze bravura high above the stage, elsewhere intent on what a spoken text called a quest for purity.

Throughout, Beeman arranged the three-part piece (seen Saturday) in layers: front-to-back or horizontal-and-vertical. At the beginning, bold sprays of light linked three male dancers swirling into taut balances on the stage with three aerialists stretching inside crimson fabric wombs overhead. Beeman himself emerged from the central enclosure, descended to the floor and began to dominate the growing ensemble: a dozen dancers by the end of Act 1.

Somber and exotic recorded music from varied sources accompanied interactions between Beeman and a number of exemplary dancers: assistant choreographer Nikki Blakeslee in one especially inventive duet, ballet champion Danny Tidwell in the first half of the piece, consummate aerialist Maximiliano Torandell in the second half.

It would be hard to overpraise their mastery of a steadily evolving, technically exposed contemporary vocabulary that often culminated in intricate yogic positions. Beeman's own involvement in every kind of challenge soon came to seem heroic even as his dancing grew increasingly private, exploring a need for love and a sense of connection. Intimate cradling duets for the group (with the men and women alternately assuming a nurturing role) objectified this need on a wider scale.

In Act 2, Beeman sent in the clowns -- putting everyone in baggy pants and red bulb noses. You could interpret the idea as a metaphor for his identity as performer, but it didn't help, for the sense of personal meaning in "The Closing" suddenly emptied out and you were left with nothing but cold, aggressive skill. The diversions proved impressive -- Valentina Alexandra Savery in a daring aerial solo, Torandell and Tania Pierce in a duet that extended from above the proscenium to below the orchestra pit, Beeman displaying every kind of prowess -- but the deepest, most distinctive components of his art were now missing in action.

A delicately whimsical hoop trio for Beeman, Blakeslee and Brenda Hamilton provided some compensation, and the finale -- which assigned to all the male dancers the same crossed-hands wing motif that had belonged exclusively to Beeman earlier -- almost pulled the whole evening together.

A greater force for unity: the light environments designed by Rob Fritz, not merely gorgeous but also as alive as the dancing and sometimes nearly tangible.

The cast also included Zac Brazenas, Johanna Sapakie, Nadine Sieber, Kris Nobles and students from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (producer of the event).

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