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    Charles' Pool

    Whole-brained dance

    In "Charles' Pool", Ruth Baguskas takes a light look at the world through Darwin's eyes and breathes ardent life into an unlikely dance subject: evolution.


    "Charles' Pool," by Ruth Baguskas at WAX, March 6-9, 2003, is dance for the whole brain, logical, analytical, and also creative and intuitive. The "Charles" in the title is Charles Darwin, whose "The Origin of Species" written almost 150 years ago has been one of the main influences on thought in the twentieth century. How's that as inspiration for an evening- length work of post- modern dance?

    Choreography by: Ruth Baguskas.
    Dancers: Ruth Baguskas, Laurie Benoit, Christine Holt, Rebekah Morin.
    Sound design by: Rick Short.
    Set design by: James Maguire.
    Costumes by: Rosie Niera.
    Video projections by: Joanna Bovay and Zoie Omega Rizzuto
    Williamsburg Arts Nexus
    205 North 7th St.
    March 6-9, 2003

    The lights come up on four vibrating dancers (Laurie Benoit, Christine Holt, Rebekah Morin, and Baguskas) in red swim caps sitting in a kiddy pool. A collage of "Heat Wave" by Olga San Juan layered with electronic and instrumental sounds accompanies the Esther Williams-esque dance that stretches and swirls into the division of cells and the origin of life. The emergence from the pool leads to a functional dance of drying the floor and emptying the kiddy pool into a nearby bucket — all done in full humor with big smiles — commandingly directed by towel-clad, cigarette-waving Benoit.

    "Charles' Pool" is humorous and self-aware. Baguskas' movement is quirky but specific, giving the viewer the idea that everything means something — most likely more than we can possibly understand. The stream of consciousness style of the piece creates an "Alice in Wonderland" aura that makes profound sense of nonsense. Baguskas seeks to draw a parallel between the scientific and creative processes and also perhaps between the cellular world, animal and social behavior, and the workings of the universe at large.

    Charles' Pool  
    Video projections by Joanna Bovay and Zoie Omega Rizzuto help in shifting the scale of the work. Images of microscope slides and the vast ocean, tiny birds, a woman running by trees, schools of fish, and the pouring of tea, highlight contrasts in both nature and civilization. Only once is the audience expected to choose between watching the dance and the video. Baguskas acknowledges this problem by ending that section with the solo dancer pausing to watch the images with us.

    Rick Short's unique soundscore is especially complementary to both the movement and video segments. His mix included both recorded sounds and the occasional excerpt from Schumann and Handel which kept the audience alert with varied rhythms, genres, and volume levels.

    All the elements of "Charles' Pool" appear to have been created in a similar way. The choreography, music, video, costumes (Rosie Niera), and set design (James Maguire) are each collaged and layered. There are always many things happening at the same time, sometimes they synthesize and sometimes not, but it is clear that this phenomenon is deliberate.

    One memorable moment of synthesis occurs when a dancer pulls a light bulb from a bucket of water and installs it on a hanging cord just above eye level. Lit dimly from above, her face shows a clear, almost maniacal reaction to her "idea." Intensified by the sound of electrical brain impulses recorded by biologist Lynn Kirby, the audience feels like it has witnessed a moment of genius.

    Other favorite moments include snack time (the distribution of whitefish roe on crackers about halfway through the 50 minute piece), an awkward waltz in which the dancers verbally acknowledge the difficulty in distinguishing the threes, and a ladder of tea cups and saucers (Darwin's wife Emma was related to the famous Wedgewood pottery family) that is cautiously twisted by the dancers to resemble a strand of DNA.

    Despite some minor problems with transitions, "Charles' Pool" is an intelligently crafted evening performed by a talented ensemble that work together beautifully.

    MARCH 17, 2003

    Reader comments on Charles' Pool:

  • "Charles' Pool"   from helen baguskas, Mar 23, 2003
  • Charles' Pool   from Elise, Mar 23, 2003
  • Great review   from Anne McM, Mar 26, 2003
  • Ruth is this you???   from Regina, Aug 27, 2004

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