Echos and Shadows — The Performance Workshop at Bearnstow

Main Hall, Bearnstow on Parker Pond
84 Bearnstow Road, Mount Vernon, Maine
August 12, 2011

A Review by Pat Onion

I love the concerts at Bearnstow, this one produced by the Performance Workshop. First of all, it is a trip to watch the performance by people whose bodies work so well, who are both creative and disciplined. Second, the choreography—a collaboration of performers and Ruth Grauert and also, this year, Sara Shelton Mann—is always a surprise. I see things I haven’t seen before, in combinations I haven’t imagined.

The program opened with a suite from the Water Dances, premiered at Bearnstow on June 25. A notoriously impatient person, I hate slow tempo dancing—at first—and then I am seduced, in this case watching Nitzia Vieyra pour water from a pitcher into a metal bowl.  I am suddenly filled me with peace, listening to the sound of water. Timmy Wagner and Molly Hess dancing slowly snake under the table, while Lizzie Loveland gets a glass; and finally, the dance like the Global Water Dance performed a few weeks ago, in which Lydia Merrick and Nitzia dance in waves, Lydia gaining, every time I see her, in stage presence and grace, as she and Nitzia created watery shapes.

This was followed by To the Waters, choreographed and danced by Ninia Hudson and Austin Jared. Conventional in concept it was salisfyingly performed.

Once in Brooklyn at BAM I watched Mikhail Baryshnikov dance with a chair, and this came back as I watched Nitzia Vieyra and Bearnstow’s wooden table fabulously dance a Duet for Human and Table, in which a simple wooden table (we could see all sides, there was no trick to this) was made to balance from every angle while the dancer performed above, below, to the side, and in fact, partnered with a table.

Guest Artist, Danny Weatherbeem  began his accordion improvisations in La Vie En Roseas by unfurling his purple sash, a gesture that previewed the robust, fun music that followed.

Molly Hess and Nitzia Vieyra in Between the Pages danced with precision. The two women, both disciplined dancers, were a joy to watch as their fluid bodies created pretzel-shaped, impossible configurations in musical motion.

The program notes on Construction No. 2 (Circle), performed by Timmy Wagner, explain that “Andy Goldsworthy’s art (an inspiration for these constructions) has the capacity to arouse sensitivity to the perpetual changes of the physical world. Technology has the capacity to dull the sensitivity of our experience of the physical world.” Timmy’s work was transformative, of both shape and nature, in which he first created a stick and pine needles circle, then danced to define the circle, then removed the sticks to create a kind of nature temple, from the open arc of which he performed like some elf or woods god. I found the TV screen with music ugly and annoying, and I guess that was the point! The completely natural constructions of the dancer were so fresh and immediate.

The Porter Suite came, for me, in pairs, comic and impish, light hearted and, as always disciplined. In “Steedy” Molly danced in an impish, comic, sexy way, calling for “my sandy colored steed,” and naming the steed Belvedere. Timmy in “Le Matin du Cowboy” came on in answer to her longing—well, maybe not quite in answer—first doing a raucously funny parody of cowboy riding, with his checkered shirt and leather cowboy boots, interspersed with playfully gay improvisations in a funny masquerade of forms of masculinity.

Lizzie Loveland, in “I’m Here,” opens the dance not wanting to wake up on cold Parker Pond (she is from South Carolina) and dances her early morning routine as the cook intern, forcing herself out of the warmth of her bed into the kitchen to collect dishes and foods for the Bearnstow breakfast. This paired in my mind with Nitzia Vierya’s  performance of “La Casa de Café,” in which she creates a temple roof with her armsrepeating “I am Home” in one of the most elegantly controlled dances of the evening, emphasizing her life in the body.

The amazing finale was a shadow dance choreographed and danced by the entire company. Alternating shadows of turquoise and pink, feet and articulating hands and fingers, and body shapes thrown in changing colors on a screen.   Bravo Bearnstow. This is fun; it is art.