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Paul Matteson & Friends in Concert
Touch,' 'I Simply Live Now'
by Preeti Vasudevan
29-30, 2004 -- Symphony Space Thalia Dance Series,
Contemporary dance choreography (the word, contemporary meaning ‘that
which is of today’) reflects an individual’s artistic journey influenced
by multiple socio-cultural phenomena in a global society. This journey
is a personal inquiry that is different from its predecessors, the modern
and postmodern movements, both of which developed identifiable and structured
forms to revolutionize the arts of their times. Contemporary works today
do not necessarily seek to change the larger community, but instead reveal
the struggles of the individual in a fast and product-driven world. However,
engulfed by the craze to churn out quick commodities to please the consumer,
many emerging choreographers settle for less research time and more quick
fixes to gain the attention of the market-savvy producer.
In this current trend of making new statements, it is refreshing to see
a young choreographer still questioning his journey and choosing intimate
spaces to bring the audience closer to his process – his journey.
Paul Matteson and his partners, Jennifer Nugent and Joseph Poulson, are
the emerging faces of New York ’s contemporary dancers who already have
a following as teachers and performers both in the city and other parts
of the country. So as I walked into the intimate Symphony Space’s Thalia
Café, it was no surprise finding the venue filled with young, enthusiastic
dancers waiting to learn even more from the performers' kinesthetic and
As the title of the concert suggested, the shared evening was one where
the choreographers were clearly supporting each other. As the audience
trickled in, Allison Leyton-Brown improvising on her piano brought the
feeling of arriving at a friendly gathering.
The first piece titled "Rustytime," was created by Joseph Poulson
and performed by both Matteson and Heather McArdle. The attraction to
contradictions between McArdle's spoken word and Matteson's movement revealed
a love-hate relationship between her funny (and at times crude) pet names
and his responses to them. The music by Chet Baker somehow seemed a bit
irrelevant when so much information was exchanged between words and movement.
A process of fine-tuning and editing, including clarity and use of space,
will help bring out the humor.
The second piece, "Step Touch" was choreographed and performed
by Matteson and Jennifer Nugent. Two highly energetic dancers with an
equally vibrant energy between them took the stage through shock waves
of tightly bound feelings sparked off by the intimate pas de deux.
Matched in music by Christopher Lancaster (cello) and Allison Leyton-Brown
(piano), there was a constant feeling of two competitive duets claiming
their individual space. Both dancers' struggle to maintain a false formality
revealed the process that reached a collaborative peak. The piece revealed
many references… life of couples, classical duets, and competitive peers….
While the struggle was definite, the humor at times seemed more dramatic
than natural. Juxtaposing seriousness with humor is like a walking a tight
rope without a net. The fragility of the piece can be teased out even
more to reveal a greater sense of intimacy and honesty between the dancers.
"I Simply Live Now" choreographed by Peter Schmitz and performed
by Matteson was an account of a person struggling with time and an arduous
personal journey. Matteson’s dancing in this piece exposed a vulnerable
quality less divulged in his previous dances. To see a dancer in a fragile
moment is to experience direct communication between observer and performer.
This method breaks all formal rules and grammar of structured dance. It
is true and honest even if just for one moment. The solo communicated
Matteson’s search for his true identity, which at times matched the character
in the text. The question in the end was whether he would survive his
struggle or simply disintegrate into the system...
The evening had many positive openings
for contemporary expressions. However, in performance more thought needs
to be given to detailing in choice of choreographing in a non-studio space.
The costuming, lighting and music need more research to match the detailing
of movement creation for specific spaces.
Edited by Holly Messitt
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