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A.P.E.

by Alissa Cardone

October 27, 2006 -- Northampton, Massachusetts

Candice Salyers directed a sensitive, dynamic evening of work at A.P.E. Northampton, Massachusetts. She invited four choreographers (University of Iowa's Jennifer Kayle, New York City's Maura Donohue, Memphis's Holly Lau, and ex-Northamptonite, Amie Dowling) to make new works on the theme of struggle and transcendence and, as a challenge to herself as a performer, embodied all four (plus a solo of her own choreography). Working in collaboration with visual and lighting designer Kathy Couch,  each piece had a unique mood, color and set that carried the audience seamlessly from work to work, creating a sense that the stage, like a dream, was unfolding.

Amie Dowling's haunting "still life (which remains)" left an unsettling, but beautiful fog. A chair is set in the corner, a green rug - the walls are papered and an exact replica of the same space is recreated in a small box which hangs from the ceiling: A space within a space. Ms. Salyers moves sideways, with careful languorous steps slowly across the upstage, head thrown back and covered with the same paper that adorns the walls. There's a Victorian air, taut restraint that then releases into a series of flails, flips and falls, bringing her movement into a darkly lit downstage area before she rolls messily offstage,  leaving only her legs exposed and protruding from the wings.

Holly Lau's "ten springs" is a text and movement work that wrestles with loss. Plastic daffodils are intermittently thrown onto the stage while Salyers tells us the story of a loved one who we learn much later in the text has died of AIDS. "This piece is about spring," she begins as she enters the space. She takes us through many years and many cities. "Spring 1979, Ithaca, NY"... it goes on like this until we feel the movement of time as a burden and the transformation of emotion. What started as light and humorous becomes tinged with bitterness as the last line reminds us, "This piece is about spring, and those damned daffodils."

Maura Donahue's "un break broken" asked the audience to move to the floor for closer viewing. The dancer began in fetal pose downstage center, and slowly rolled away. A grounded floor sequence followed with deep squats, lunges countered with open chest movements and long focuses upward. She made direct eye contact, as if she had a secret to tell, sweet and intimate but also mischievous. The lights and sound changed levels - lowering and brightening to give a sense of near and far. It was precious and enticing, as she moved from floor to standing and eventually turned slowly away from us to end.

Jennifer Kayle's "she was, she thought" featured six full length mirrors placed far upstage and a background video projection. The mirrors gave an interesting multiple perspective view of the movement but coupled with the video projection, made it feel like two ideas were battling each other for attention.

Ms. Saylers performance was confident and authentic as she shifted states, costume and movement vocabulary from work to work. The evening repeats on October 28th, at 8 pm, at A.P.E. Thornes Marketplace, Northampton..

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