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Fall for Dance

by Kathy Lee Scott

October 11-14, 2007 -- Orange Country Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, CA

Two mixed programs brought world dance to patrons of the Orange County Performing ArtsCenter in Costa Mesa, California, during its first Fall for Dance, based on the same-named event held in New York City. From India to South Africa, punk to ballet, professional dancers performed from Oct. 11 through Oct. 14, introducing new audience members to the varieties of movement that encompass today's dance.

With four companies containing ballet in their names, one would expect to see lots of pointe work. But only Boston Ballet scheduled a classical piece. Its principal dancers performed the first act pas de deux from "Lady of the Camellias." Romi Beppu lit up the stage from her first walk downstage with only a settee on stage. Choreographer Val Caniparoli chose Beppu based on her acting ability as well as her technique, and she embodied the doomed courtesan Marguerite in every gesture, glance and sweep of her legs. Her partner, Nelson Madrigal, personified the impoverished Armand who adores Marguerite.

One challenge Caniparoli gave himself was how many different types of lifts he could choreograph in the piece, according to Dr. Dianne Howe, dance expert from the OCPAC. Shoulder sits, overhead lifts and supported leaps filled the piece. Madrigal's double tour jeté battu impressed some members of the audience, who tried to applaud for individual moves but which more experienced members quickly squashed.

Beppu and Madrigal were well matched in stature and they interacted as a romantic couple: gazing into each other's eyes, touching and kissing. Caniparoli stayed with traditional ballet moves but incorporated a few modern ones. Overall, the lyrical dance flowed throughout. A beautiful representation of ballet.

Pacific Northwest Ballet reprised Nacho Duato's "Jardi Tancat" ("Closed Garden"), a modern dance piece set to recorded Catalonian folk melodies and songs performed by Maria del Mar Bonet. The barefoot dancers, dressed in long-sleeved tops and long skirts or pants, began without any accompaniment but soon visualized the melancholy in the songs. Arching over their hips, then standing upright, the dancers wove patterns among themselves as couples or individuals. They transitioned the moves smoothly.

London-based Srishti-Nina Rajarani Dance Creations demonstrated the rushed lives of middle managers through traditional Bharatanatyam movements in Nina Rajarani's "Quick!" Four men, Ash Mukherjee, Seshadri Iyengar, Sooraj Subramaniam and PN Vikas, rolled up from the floor to the sound of a toaster popping and hurried across the floor to their offices in bare feet, black slacks, long-sleeved shirts and ties.

Before a video of time-lapsed office and street scenes, the four dancers interacted with each other plus the four musicians: Y Yadavan, Kumar Raghunathan, KJ Vijay and Balaji Krishnamurhy, who joined them onstage. The music they produced clashed with the soundtrack of the video behind the performers. To Western ears, the entire piece maintained the same level of loudness despite what the dancers did on stage.

The dancers moved precisely and quickly, straining their fingers in intricate patterns while pattering their feet in tap-dance/Irish dance fashion. Unfortunately, the lighting in the beginning was too dark to see small gestures well.

Dancers Kristen Hollinsworth and Luke Miller, from Susan Marshall & Company, performed a pas de deux while harnessed to thick ropes. The bare-footed pair swung and twisted together and apart in Susan Marshall's "Kiss," which had premiered in 1987. At the time, the dancers had just broken up, according to Howe.

The couple alternated between clinging together and fleeing each other, but the premise of the dance waned after a few minutes. It was similar to watching a "one-joke" movie.

The final act on stage, Via Katlehong Dance, took 10 men from South Africa to perform local dances. The moves came from street dancers and included pseudo-tap moves done in tennis shoes, exuberant stomping in rubber boots and quick switching of weight.

The men accompanied themselves with whistles and singing in their native tongues, as well as using the beats of the moves. They all hammed it up for the audience, who loved them.

Closing both programs was an aerial dance by Project Bandaloop. Eight barefoot performers walked down the side of the building, attached by ropes from the top, and created patterns by bouncing up from the walls, slowly cart wheeling and somersaulting, as well as leaping to recorded classical music. All the dancers collaborated in the choreography for a piece entitled "Loft!" It began with two couples performing alongside each other, through a trio of women dancing and swinging in various formations, to the last, all-member extravaganza. The dancers made it appear fun to be up in the air, weightless and moving without restraints.

The more successful program contained traditional ballet, modern dance, as well as Indian classical dance and South African street moves. The second program included a community-based ball-passing project, modern dance and American street dance.

Dutch National Ballet's soloists Marisa Lopez and Juanjo Arquez danced Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's "Before After," a modern dance piece depicting the end of a relationship, even though the parties wish it weren't over. The pair went so far as to disrobe partially, giving the younger audience members a startling look at trim, well-proportioned bodies.

Members of Martha Graham Dance Company revised two parts of the choreographer's 1936 "Chronicle," which she had created in response to war. The all-women dancers wove skillfully, keeping their torsos taut. Occasionally, they turned to a two-dimensional palate (one that Vaslaw Nijinsky used in his 1912 "L'Apres-midi d'un Faune").

Where it once might have said something to an audience, the dance now seems dated with its monotonous gestures and dynamics.

Alonzo King's LINES Ballet dancers performed a new piece, "Rasa," which will premiere in November. King began with silent moves, which were then accompanied by taps and drumming. The dancers moved independent of each other, seemingly doing "his own thing,” with minimal interaction.

For the second part, the curtain lowered until just a strip of the stage remained. An entwined couple slid, stretched and glided across the stage to Indian-like music. The pair would unwind, reach away from each other, then retract into a close embrace. It seemed they never lost touch with each other, even if it was just fingertips meeting. The patterns were fascinating and ingenious how King put them together. They'd alternate carrying each other short distances, drag one another, roll together on the floor. One would support the other, then they'd switch positions, all the time, moving fluidly.

The final section again featured all the dancers. This time they danced together, in competitive groups and as partners.

Finishing the stage pieces was an American street piece by Rennie Harris, "P-Funk." Eight dancers from Rennie Harris Puremovement filled the stage, then tried to outdo each other with head spins, be-bop moves and hip-hop gyrations. One dancer kept holding his crotch, which distracted from whatever moves he did. Unlike the South African group, this ensemble never connected with the audience.

A slide show of images from the performances can be seen here

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