Friday, May 29, 2009

What Moves Us -- Opening Night Concert

The World Dance Alliance-Americas General Assembly held in Madison, Wisconsin this year, christened a weekend-long conference of classes, lectures, panels and performances with a showcase concert mixing a bill of local groups with out-of-towners.

For the most part, the dances were ill-suited to a venue the scope of Madison's lovely historic Capitol Theatre. A smaller theatre would have served the intimate works better and made the show feel less tiring. A few exceptions kept the audience connected to this technically smooth, but way-too-long program.

Out of the thirteen pieces emerged a stunning minimalist solo with Escher-like video projections entitled "Somewhere Close to Now". In it, Philadelpia-based Niki Cousineau used simplicity and economy of choreographic form to its best. Rare that dance and video are so perfectly married, Cousineau, obviously a strong dancer, boldly chose to draw attention to the power of hand gesture, simple running, and stillness, allowing time for her strong presence to be absorbed.

The Taiwanese Bird and Water Dance Ensemble, a company of dancers with disabilities, filled the stage with colored ribbons, unison movement and bright, chintzy sequined costumes. Inconsistent in dance technique, but strong in performance skills, this group of young athletic amputees and blind dancers took command with a series of lively Asian-flavored contemporary dances all choreographed by Tsui-Chen Yen. In the highlight "Rainbow in the Heart", a trio of fearless blind men, youthful, flexible, and clad in white, leapt, rolled, spun and reached with a commitment seldom seen, even in able-bodied dancers.

Also, the Madison-based Jazzworks Dance Company brought solid technique and a welcome sense of humor and lightness to "Borrowed Baroque" --a nicely structured bit of stylish choreography by Sam Watson.