Nikolais Dance Theater performed by the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company
Top photo: Juan Carlos Claudio, Jo Blake, Snezana Adjanski, and Liberty Valentine perform in Tensile Involvement.
Bottom photo: Ai Fujii in Tent.
The program itself is multifaceted, representing differing aspects of Nikolaiss exploration of the art. The company seems most competent when performing those works that focus on motion. And Liturgies (1983) is for the most part just that, a regrouping of snippets from earlier works that Nikolais had culled and reworked to perfection. The company is delicious in driving tempo and non-figurative visions (Shadow), which are motion based.
Noumenon, which is the earliest piece on the program (1953) was immaculately performed, and spectacular in it staging, although I am sure Nikolais would have preferred a lighting that gives the figures a mysterioso.
Tensile Involvement (1955) was performed with that dancers lust for moving that is so inescapably delightful. One hardly notices that the elegant solos and the duet are performed with no connection to the vibrating environment. It is a great end to the evening.
It is Tent (1968) that requires a different performing mode, as much of the scenario was never truly choreographed. Most of the motion content was based on acting improvisation, the assumption of character in time/place, which enhances the visible score and gives it life. This brings to the fore several aspects of reconstruction. Of course, the postmodern dancer can assume the mantel of these differing modes. What seems not available to the reconstruction is the primary fact of non-choreography, and secondly that each scene requires the performer to assume a new mantelfrom confident bravado to frightening exposure to deep mourning to elegant beauty to celebration. (Did I miss a segment?) As a secondary note I would suggest more variety in the lightinga constant bright red sky says little.
Ruth Grauert, March 10, 2008