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Margaret Jenkins Dance Company

'A Slipping Glimpse'

by Carmel Morgan

September 20, 2007 -- Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, College Park, Maryland

The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, whose home is San Francisco, California, along with dancers from the Tanusree Shankar Dance Company, whose home is Kolkata, India, presented the evening-length collaborative piece, “A Slipping Glimpse,” at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus.  It is an epic work in many ways, not in the least because it joins from across the globe dancers of differing styles. A spiritual, otherworldly quality suffuses “A Slipping Glimpse” whose title comes from a turn of phrase by Willem de Kooning – “Reality is a slipping glimpse.” 

The work began with a brief outdoor prologue.  The theater had a terraced courtyard perfect for this portion of the piece.  The dancers, in flowing costumes of gold, white, and gray, entered so silently it was as if they had suddenly been placed on the grass by unseen hands.  The opening was reverential in nature, quiet with repeated gestures. 

As the piece moved indoors, the audience was seated so that they encircled the dancers, with many viewing the performance from the stage.  The stage was covered by a bright red floor and several large red platforms of varying heights.  The music, by composer Paul Dresher, added to this unique setting.  Musicians sat at the back of the stage, at an extreme elevation, and played live Dresher’s sometimes eerie electro-acoustic score. 

The dancers began the indoor portion gathered together on a single platform.  A poem by collaborator Michael Palmer mentioned stillness and waiting.  A single female dancer entered alone and seemingly distressed.  Slowly, other dancers were lifted down from the platform to join her.  There were stunning moments of suspension as some of the dancers dangled downwards. 

Once on the ground, the dancers engaged in a series of lifts that continued the theme of suspension.  The dancers made spectacular use of both the platforms and the stage, giving the audience the impossible task of taking it all in.  The groupings constantly changed, resulting in a rebounding energy that reminded one alternately of waves and breathing. 

The Indian dancers exuded a joy and lightness that set them apart from Jenkins’ dancers, even when they were performing the same choreography.  The hands of the Indian dancers, in particular, were striking.  Like their very flexible bodies, the hands of the Indian dancers bent and tucked in a myriad of interesting, delicate positions.  Their hips and necks, too, moved in ways not duplicated by the Americans.   Other memorable moments in “A Slipping Glimpse” included intense unison by the American males, amazing low-to-the floor crawls, some stirring solo work by the petite powerhouse Heidi Schweiker, and dueling quartets between the American and Indian dancers that resulted in each group swapping and enveloping a single member. “A Slipping Glimpse” is a visual extravagance.  Its vision, however, is unclear.  The work ends with two dancers, one Indian and one American, separated by a huge gulf.  Is this separation a true split, we are left to wonder, or are the dancers somehow reflections of each other?

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