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Naganuma Dance and Hydroflo: 'Cut Loose'

by Quinn Batson

October 14-15, 2006 -- Merce Cunningham Dance Studio

Darcy Naganuma and Lara Luzim produced a smorgasbord of dance and choreography at Cunningham Studio and called it “Cut Loose”, a consistently tasty evening of dance at this often inconsistent venue. It was easy to miss that the evening included works by six different choreographers because the flavors mixed well.

“Ties” and “shadow whisper roar” by Naganuma dominated the first half of the show, though it would be hard to forget the solo by Julian Barnett sandwiched between them. Naganuma’s dances are lush and vibrant, often operatic, occasionally silly but generally beautiful, with physical and explosive dancing surrounded by slower peacefulness.

“Ties” takes a pile of colorful fabric strips and creates a piece about human connection, introduced and ended by a wild-haired dance animal (Taela Naomi Brooks) leaping in and out of the others to gamelan music (Uakti Ensemble) that casts her as a sort of island faerie spirit. Naganuma’s pieces throb well when the dancing is at full tilt and during the beautiful, quiet breaks, but fall a little flat when dialogue bits are thrown in, as exemplified by the good-girl, bad-girl duo early in the piece. Beautifully sharp partnering by Yesid Lopez and Karina Lesko is the high point of “Ties”, a conveyor belt of slowly moving automaton people being pestered to interact by a girl wielding a piece of soft fabric works well, too. “Ties” really comes together, though, in a quickly-building dance frenzy featuring most of the 10 dancers, perfectly accompanied by heavy electronic string music by Apocalyptica.The post-apocalypse reemergence at the end of the piece feels soft and soothing.

“shadow whisper roar” is less operatic but quite strong as well, again making excellent use of music for both its soft and powerful sections.

Between the two Naganuma pieces, Julian Barnett showed his power in “The Echologue,” a haunted solo of agony and triumph. Barnett does big things with his small gymnast body, and his vocal transformation from barely alive at the start of the piece to almost uncontrollably powerful at the end frames the work perfectly.

For more “flava”, Svea Schneider and Kambi Gathesa kicked up the second half with probably the best sustained hip-hop/breakin’/funky house-dancing piece staged in a dance concert, called “Closer.” This duo hits it, with impeccable timing and moving-as-one partnering that feels silky and smooth.

Charly Wenzel, an excellent dancer and rehearsal director for Naganuma Dance, kicked a lot of cardboard boxes down in her solo “Inside Out,” which started out well but suffered from a shallow song about deep love.

Christopher K. Morgan showed two excellent pieces, one a dance piece and one a performance monologue about rice and its cultural implications for a kid growing up Asian in Hawaii. His “Tarantella” takes a traditional Neopolitan women’s laundry song and makes it drive the powerful movement of three women spinning and stomping with sharp, triangulated limbs, arguing in song and dance about whether the man in this piece, danced very well by Morgan himself, deserves the attentions of one of the young maids.

Lara Luzim and Hydroflo ended the show with an interesting piece called “Break On Through” that did a great job of tying the evening together. Schneider and Gathesa reprised some of their movement and were countered by Brett Garfinkel as a creditable funky white boy. Also countering each other were the 2 men in dressy black and white versus the 4 women in soft brown hoodie sweatshirts. This piece was all over the place in a good way, full of snake-charmer arms straight out of the harem at times, big brassy blondes looking Fosse on chairs, and quick and soft hip-hop moves. And yet, throughout, there was an overall feeling of yogic serenity, enhanced near the end by Tori Amos’ soft, breathy cover version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

“Cut Loose” as an evening of dance was a really good sampler of different choreographies that also stood on its own as a strong show, an accomplishment on many levels.

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