American Dance Guild Performance Festival 2008

Dance New Amsterdam, New York, NY
September 11-14, 2008

A Review

Barbara Mahler in The Whispering Pages—short dances in white all in a row

Photo by Julie Lemberger

Peter Kyle in Frail Demons

Photo © 2007 Kanji Takeno

Claire Porter in Interview

Photo © Julie Lemberger

I saw forty (yes, 40) dances in three days so forgive me if I don't give each performer special notice. What is important is that The Guild has here given opportunity for young choreographers to perform their works on a program with those who have recognition and prestige, for the many faces of current dance to be seen in one venue, and for us to revisit several master pieces of past decades—a rich kaleidoscope indeed.

Program for Thursday

Anna Sokolow and Murray Louis were both named honorees, Anna was represented by two works, the first a group work, excerpted from a larger work, Lyric Suite (1953), which sent me reeling back a half century with its gowns and its solemn interweaving of sustained movement. The second work, Session for Six (1958), was gay and light, and danced with the immaculate precision that Anna always demanded. The reconstruction was not credited, but I believe that a number of the performers had worked with Anna herself.

Murray Louis was also represented by two works, the first, a solo from Figura, which was first performed by the Limon Company and then by the Louis Company, was danced by Betsey Fisher, who had performed it while a member of the Louis Company. It is a lush but gentle portrait of femininity. The second Louis piece is one that he himself often performed. Frail Demons (1984) was performed on two separate programs by Peter Kyle who has performed it over the years. This is a fast, flicking Louis work, in four parts, that never fails to send us twitching. These works were rehearsed by both Murray himself and Alberto Del Saz.

I was not able to attend the final concert on Sunday when the second movement of Louis’s Porcelain Dialogues (1974) was performed. I saw it when it was originally revived by Janis Brenner for her 25th anniversary production. The dancers all were members of the Murray Louis Dance Company and some were original cast members.

There was one other reconstruction in the series of programs (If there were others, I was not made aware of it.) that, a work of Claudia Gitelman, Impromptu. This was performed by Lynn Lesniak Needle and rehearsed by Claudia. Since Lynn has the long stature and lean form of Claudia, she was able to fill the work with the flow of the Schubert accompaniment and to portray its clear lyricism.

I was disappointed in Pooh Kaye’s The River Sticks (1983) which starts so promisingly with a wonderful vibration of motion and sound with long, thin sticks, but which never develops, and with the continuing “play-party” atmosphere of just knocking apart the remainder of the set. I was delighted by Christopher Ralph’s rendition of Yund-Li Chen’s The Pursuit of Balloons and reveled in the immaculate performance and composition of Nai-Ni-Chen’s The Way of Five-Five in which she herself danced.

Program for Friday

Peter Kyle opened the program with a dance he choreographed by sliding upside down from an armchair in a dance appropriately named Chamber Dance NO.1. Gymnastic, and replete with strange rhythms it was well composed. Eyes Wide Open, choreographed by Sue Bernhard, the first of our war theme dances to be presented, told the story in motion without being “soupy,” followed this.

Then came a wow of a piece—pelting motion piling up in cannon form in a dance strangely named Shades of Thought, choreographed by Lauren Putty. I could not understand the spoken text in Longevity Practices, choreographed and performed by Laura Shapiro, but I did get the comic content. However, we were next treated by a large group piece, pleasant, light and romantic, Silent Echo, choreographed by Keith A. Thompson, which was followed by Burning Lake, a “duet” by Tina Croll. In a compelling ceremony Ms. Croll served an impassive and unmoving Ed McAfee— a definitive protest of the female lot.

Betsey Fisher gave us Blue Moon with live cello and a few words. The dance, gentle and serene, had a hint of Hawaiian story hula. This was followed by Kun-yang Lin’s statement of sorrow, which was dedicated to Patricia Nanon. Both of these dances were superbly made and performed.

Program for Saturday at 3:00

Here I began to look though my scratched notes for the second war protest piece and couldn’t find it. Two G.I. gunners hunting while the names and ages of dead G.I.’s were read… a group of women swaying while the names and ages of Iraci dead were read.… The sides of the stage lined with empty shoes… perhaps this was the only protest piece, but I remembered it with more people than were listed. This was a strong piece although I had wished that the gunners were less self-conscious. They made the start of the work seem slight (which it wasn’t).

Was I tiring of viewing? The dances in this program seemed slight. I do know that some of it was not clear to me; that we had some interesting projections, but I am not sure choreography had any part in it; that we had a tortured relationship; and some unpleasant sex. One dance I “got” in the first two seconds despite an interesting décor, and another dance tried to give me everything “but the kitchen sink” and yet never did make a dance.

Program for Saturday at 8:00

After I had fortified myself with a Philly cheese steak sandwich, perhaps my spirit had revived as I found this program of real interest. First, we were treated to a neat and curious quartet, Heart a t Low Tide, choreographed by Rebecca Nettl-Fiol and then to a solo of clear motion in Silent Past by Lauren Edson. Frayed Ends was a gentle balletic pas de deux choreographed by Frances Ortiz.

Then we had Claire Porter! Recitative, in her monologue, Interview. We had about eight minutes of pure comedy. Her superb timing, her physical jokes, her plastic face—all genius, all fun.

Hubbibi Hhalouua (my beautiful you have my eyes) by Roman Baca is a clear, simple, well-danced slipper ballet, danced by a competent corps de ballet. (It is here I noted that the American Dance Guild is open to all dance.)

Peter Kyle repeated a performance of Frail Demons. Then came Noa Sagle’s strange piece, three seeming solos performed at the same time, called Breath 22. The poetry of Rilke served as the background for On Looking Back, choreographed and performed by Ara Fitzgerald. The dance was curious and compelling although the text was sometimes inaudible.

The wind-up was Antebellum Blues, choreographed by Kariamu Welch, a brightly costumed “dance-out” that sent us home with a sense of fun. If I have missed anyone, I apologize. If you have managed to read all this, perhaps you can understand why. I commend the committee for completing the immense task of putting this festival together. I do know that the performers were enthusiastic and dedicated and that the audience found moments of beauty, joy and thoughtfulness. I guess that is what it’s all about.

—Ruth Grauert, September 15, 2008