Memories and Revelations

World Dance Alliance Global Dance Event
Dance Theater Workshop - Bessie Schönberg Theater

Monday July 12, 2010 - Opening Night Concert

Review by Stephanie Burridge (© 2010)

Instantes del deseo, created and performed by Ulises Martinez Martinez (Photo by Roberto Serrano)

Six dance works were featured in the Opening Concert of the World Dance Alliance Global Event at Dance Theatre Workshop – ‘In Time Together’ is the title of the WDA event and the performance epitomized this theme.  It was a night for mature artists and choreographers to celebrate their artistry and explore themes centered on memories and revelations and to share a creative space with the 2010 UW-Madison Summer dance Institute dancers who performed in the program.  At times this led to an uneasy relationship whereby the intentions of the choreographers were not always realized by the young dancers – overall however, it ritualistically celebrated the generous passing on of wisdom and the passion of dance.

In a pulse and a heartbeat, recorded in the sound-scape of Beyond, dancers Keiko Kitano and Zihao Li revealed some secrets about the fragility of life. The opening pose of Keiko Kitano hovering close to the ground in a contorted contraction was also echoed in her final moments as she completed her journey and submitted to the inevitability of death. At the edge of her time, she clung to her memories and her life in her duet with Zihao Li - the movements were both tender and desperate. The duo was framed by the ‘landscape dancers’ who were a gentle, but sometimes ponderous presence with their simple, yet symbolic movements. The projected background collage of fragmented faces and images that deconstructed into geometric patterns added an abstract narrative to the story of a woman in a liminal state where memories become blurred and small details of colors, light, fingers and faces reflect a muffled state of mind.

Soloist Ulises Martinez Martinez from Mexico was a brave, charismatic performer who worked through a series of poignant, dramatic, funny and irreverent images in Instantes del deseo.  Nobody will forget the scene where he struggled with himself, writhing naked on the floor, then simply covered his privates with a hat and walked off through the audience. Symbolism abounded in this dense work that was beguiling - the construction reflected the great symbolic collage traditions of Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera.  A thin cord for instance, became a child’s skipping rope, then a swing and finally a hangman’s noose. Martinez’s choreography incorporated small details and scenes created as metaphors for larger human concerns such as loneliness, freedom, life and death, ritual and celebration progressed with unusual timing and had a refreshing unpredictability. The use of a single overhead swinging light underpinned his journey and he simply turned it off at the end.

Intensity, grace and passion drove Sospiri danced dramatically by senior artists Virginie Victoire Mécène and Kevin Predmore. Based on an Argentinean story of forbidden love, the duo portrayed Camilla O’Gorman, a peasant girl, and her Jesuit priest lover. The dancers wrenched each other into embraces then tore themselves apart reliving the tragedy – their expression was palpable and moving.

Jin-Wen Yu gave a master-class  in how to choreograph for young dancers in his work Exclusion that used three of the 2010 UW-Madison Summer dance Institute dancers; Scott Ewen (Australia), Tzu-Jong Lui (Taiwan) and Kit Stanley (USA).  It flowed seamlessly through a series of circles, interconnecting lifts and falls, energy and stillness that echoed an Asian aesthetic.  Linked by a leitmotif of the dancers marking time with stylized walking on the spot, they constantly split and regrouped. The partner-work was democratic with a constant refiguring of duets and trios – the dancers obviously enjoyed the ebb and flow of energy and passed this spirit on to the audience. Memorial – Version 111 by Australian choreographer Michael Whaites, for the 2010 UW-Madison Summer dance Institute dancers was less successful.  If the images of momentous world events including pictures of Martin Luther King, British royal Lady Dianna Spencer, war scenes and much more had been removed there would have been nothing left to sustain the performance. The dancers were disconnected from the narrative behind them and each other – this was possibly the intention of the work but it became clichéd as a device. The movement that included a lot of repeated phrases with the dancers lining up in front of the projection then repeatedly breaking apart, lacked inventiveness and became tedious. The same dancers shone in the final work, Ilinx To choreographed by Leda Muhana (Brazil) in collaboration with the dancers. A joyous, energetic piece, the choreography used the rhythm of the music to allow the dancers to hurl themselves through space and at each other with some creative lifts, interactions and solo phrases.  Their personalities emerged and the ritualistic passing on of the dance from one generation to the next was assured.