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Adrienne Celeste Fadjo Dance


by Cecly Placenti

November 3, 2005 -- 14th Street Y Theatre, New York

Modern dance is a special art form. It is special in the fact that, for the most part, it has no real vocabulary of its own -- it borrows and morphs steps from other dance idioms (classic modern dance like Graham or Taylor notwithstanding). Modern dance has the unique capacity to invent movement limited only by the imagination of the choreographer and the bodies of the dancers. Modern dance can interpret music and convey ideas by constructing its own language in which to do so.

It seems much of what I have been seeing lately in the young emerging modern scene tends to sometimes sacrifice innovation for impact, clarity and form for the sake of striving to be different or obscure. Sometimes what I see is less dance than performance art, less vision than awkwardness. This is not to say that these movements are not valid, but seeing Adrienne Celeste Fadjo Dance perform, I was delighted to see dancers dancing. While Fadjo’s movement wasn’t exactly highly innovative and fresh, her sense of musicality and kinetic lushness was pleasing and enjoyable. She manages to convey concrete ideas and themes without losing the joy of movement in her work. She uses gesture and pantomime as a springboard for juicy, weighted and fluid dancing.

“Home”, which premiered this evening at the 14th Street Y Theater, explored the outward function and inner dysfunction of three suburban families and was performed to a medley of songs by Moby. The piece opened on a backdrop of three large paintings depicting three images of the inside of three different houses. In the opening scene we meet the three neighboring families -- a happy suburban couple with two children, a workaholic man and his neglected wife, and a wife no longer interested in her sex starved husband. We see these families going about their business and begin to sense the thread of what threatens to unravel them.

Traveling upstage on the diagonal, grandma and grandpa begin to walk. They are old, infirm, and painfully slow. As the music builds, grandpa takes grandma and begins a stiff waltz. Slowly their bodies begin to melt as the years seem to fall back, the dance reminding them of their youth and prime. Out of the wings their grandson comes to hand his grandmother back her cane, to remind her of her place, and with resignation and sadness, she takes up her cane, takes the arm of her husband, and begins their laborious walk back upstage. As they disappeared into the wings, I saw a silent tear slide down the cheek of Jessica Ingraham who played the part of the grandmother. It is a gem of a dancer who can become so emotionally involved in a role, no matter how small or short it is.

Using gesture and mime, Fadjo lets us see what is really going on in these seemingly normal families. The workaholic husband does an over the top pantomime of typing at a keyboard, his shoulders hunched to painful distortion, his fingers like claws pounding on an imaginary keyboard. The dutiful housewife endlessly puts food in and out of the oven, the uninterested wife applies makeup to avoid her husband. In their separate vignettes we see their struggle, yet when they get together for a neighborhood party, everyone is on their best behavior and their masks are back on.

The movement is a mix of modern splashed with a hint of ballet and a dash of street dancing during the men’s fight scene. The dancers execute it smoothly and in time with the hypnotic sounds of Moby, but sometimes lack polish or form. Of special note in this piece were Allison Schaeffer and Tommy Noonan as the perfect suburban Couple in Pink. Mr. Noonan is a tall man who moves very softly and fluidly. Allison Schaeffer is clean and precise. Neha Anada as the uninterested wife has great presence and really involves her face in her dancing.

At one point the women begin to take on the men’s movement, and vice versa. The seamless switch of roles was an interesting comment on the gender structure in these families. “Home” ends not happily, but rather ambiguously, as often is the case in real life. The families are all back on stage again in their respective houses, going about their business as usual, assuming their normal roles no matter how dissatisfied we watched them become throughout the dance. Fadjo’s ability to portray this unsavory aspect of the human condition shows intelligence, sensitivity and the ability to rise to one of dance’s great challenges.

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