Ramapo College, Mahwah, New Jersey
December 4, 2004.

A Review

DANCE CONNECTIONS is a loosely organized group of professional dancers who live in North Jersey (Hudson and Bergen Counties) and nearby New York State.

Ramapo College’s Berrie Center for Performing Arts is a good 350-seat theater with all the goodies that college theaters have to better prepare the student for a life in theater. I was invited to light this evening of dance. I did not stay for the final performance as I had already worked for nine hours, but I did see the run-through. 

The program opened with Claire Porter’s recitation called Piano. Claire is an accomplished raconteur, and in her “funky” turban and sleek black dress she is a commanding presence. I feel her work would have been better served in a different place on the program.

A duet called Ardor, choreographed by Susan Cherniak and danced by Randy and Mia Howard, followed. Randy had danced, long time, with Erick Hawkins, and Randy’s large, quiet work on stage is reminiscent of Erick. Susan should look again at the the first half of this piece to bring it up to the calibre of the second half, which is inventive and well constructed.

Lynn Needle danced Alwin Nikolais’ Doll with the Broken Head from Mechanical Organ (1978). While, the slide décor had to be improvised (one hand-operated projector in the booth), Lynn danced this (to her, familiar) work with her usual competence.

Selkie, choreographed and performed by Susan Thomasson, closed the first half. This is a curiously striking piece based on a Celtic legend. As a sea creature Susan first dances “under the sea”; on land she looses her “skin” (a fisherman takes it) and needs to get it back before she can return to the sea. I found this dance too short “in the sea.” While her concept has so much possibility, it's too long after she leaves the sea before she “loses her skin” and so we lose the narrative. Nevertheless, it is a satisfactory closer before intermission.

The second half opened with Mixed Step Cut, a duet co-choreographed by Cristina Aguirre and Frances Rosario-Puleo and accompanied on stage by pianist Janice Friedman. This dance was competently crafted with delicious costuming that took the light and turned into jewels.

This was followed by the first of two dances by Irving Burton, that consummate performer. Both of his dances were in the “talk and motion” style that Irving practiced in his twenty years with the Paper Bag Players. This, his first dance on the program, is for his daughter Sarah Beth, who was born deaf.

The next dance, Secret, choreographed by Jamie Sporn and danced by Langston Kahn and Danielle Szabo, was neatly formed of curiously interesting gestures.

Okey Chenoweth, poet and well-known personage in the county, talked of his childhood and read his poem entitled Recollection, while Lynn Needle moved as his remembered images atop a colorful tower.

Nan-Ni Chen’s River of Dreams, a duet performed by Gabriel Hernan and Min Zhou, danced with a long bamboo pole, is a peaceful enjoyment and was beautifully choreographed and beautifully danced, filling the audience with quiet wonder.

Then followed Irving’s Retire? Who Me? — which refuses the problems of aging and led the audience in a rousing romp to end it all.

— Ruth Grauert