Janis Brenner and Guests

St. Marks Church Danspace Project, Feb. 1–4, 2007

Normally I write a review the minute I get home from the event. But this time my personal schedule prevented it. So here it is totally from what I remember. And perhaps this is a better way to review anything.

I recall first the emerging of figures from a projected video. Of course, that sent my mind reeling—ways to make the dancers actually come from the screen. I don't recall any unique motion in this piece, but it had a pleasing, gentle flavor.

Her use of voice is magnificent. Her Meredeth Monk heritage comes through clearly. So fitting to her wonderful quirky movement motifs, a unique abstract language that I wish she had further explored.

Porcelain Dialogues

Janis Brenner and Guests perform Porcelain Dialogues, choreographed in 1974 by Murray Louis. From left to right: Robert Small, Peter Kyle, Janis Brenner, Michael Blake, Betsy Fisher, and Sara Pearson.

Photo © Julie Lemberger

Janis is a comedienne. I know that someone else was credited with the choreography of whatever this comedy piece was, but I also know that the choreographer could not have composed this on anyone else.

There was a piece with restricting glow-lite lines on the floor. The dancer wore toe shoes, which Janis used as an extension, a prop, rather than as a conventional ballet tool. I don't think I got the significance of the glowing lines, which may have been symbolic of technical restrictions. That was in my mind, not in the motion.

Then the wonderful skirt—red and twelve feet long. When it was used as a tool of motion and of shape, it was great; it lost me when there was an attempt at literal statement.

Now I think sex is great, but I feel that one does not have to have it as a reason to create a dance. Seen as dance pieces, two trios wove several dances, which I know were well made, and well performed, but I was distracted by the literal implications of a sex act, by trying to find the nexus.

Then there was what I know so well—Porcelain Dialogues—choreographed by Murray Louis in the 1970s and lovingly recreated by members of his former companies to celebrate Murray’s 80th birthday anniversary. The gentle movement, the flicking use of hands, the tender gesture, the music ends . . . then on each pair, an embracing arm encircles a waist.

Of course, the Thursday opening was “family night,” and perhaps twenty or more “old” Murray dancers were in the audience to celebrate him and joyously join the dancers and Murray himself in bows.

Janis should be secure in who she is, create from her own visions, rather than create to please her “roots.” She does have a strong persona and we would like to see more of it.

— Ruth E. Grauert, Feb. 12, 2007