New Edge Mix

November 6–8, 2009
Meeting House Theater, 3500 Lancaster Ave., Philadelphia

A Review

The venue, Meeting House Theater, is a good space for dance. The seating offers good sight lines form every seat. The playing area (black box style) is good size, wall to wall with no wings. Exits and entrances are from vomitorium aisles.

The program presented five young choreographers. The audience was largely “family” so that applause was personal rather than critical. It is always great to see your pals perform.

I really don’t want to individualize my comments. What I say may pertain to each and every performer and dance maker in the program. I hope they may read and understand what I say.

One cannot open one’s mouth on a stage as one does in a living room. Words need to be “sent forth” to be understood. Likewise, motion cannot be kept to oneself. Performers need to learn to communicate what they speak and move “to the last row in the balcony.” That performers enjoy what they say and how they move is not sufficient. That joy needs be shared with all viewers. Otherwise, what they do is just self-gratification. I don’t mean they need to exude “Look, Ma, I’m dancing.” I mean they need to let the pores of the body open to the doing for all to see.

The motion I saw was competent. No one stumbled or strained to accomplish the act. However, the progress of the works was often cluttered with unexplained trimmings. Many properties (a cloth hanging center stage, discarded clothing, and several stuffed bunnies) were not used to their full potential. Much motion was thrown to the winds without resolution.

Every piece appeared to have a verbal narrative that formed the basis for the work. The translation of words into motion is “ancient” modern dance tradition (e.g., many of Martha Graham’s ballets). There is nothing wrong with returning to a narrative style, but the skill to create motion that is additive, that gives the narrative felt meaning, requires the choreography and the performer to connect with narrative meaning.

In traditional post-modern fashion every work had an Alice in Wonderland intension—a nonsense feeling. But the irony, the humor, the crescendo of Carroll’s work was lacking. Obviously the creators did not recognize what they had at hand.

I have a personal interest in two of the young dancers on the program, Alie Vidich and Lee Fogel. As former Bearnstow interns, I want them to understand and grow in their art. Perhaps by saying what I see as an observer may help to clarify to them what they wish to do.

—Ruth Grauert, Novmber 6, 2009