For better or for worse
| ||Photo by Ellen Crane|
Dura Mater's ten-year anniversary gala showcases the good and the less-so of Kriota Willberg's repertory.
By QUINN BATSON
After the fight, this reviewer's scorecard reads: Eastern European
dances good; comic interviews bad. Kriota Willberg used this 10th
anniversary celebration performance to show why she has made it ten
years in NYC making dances and also possibly why she hasn't gotten
much further. The evening's several high points were unfortunately
pulled down by too many dull or insufficient moments, leaving the
viewer feeling full from plain mashed potatos rather than some of the
delicious dressing or piquant cranberry sauce he'd tasted earlier.
The entire audience actually was offered tiramisu after the
performance, payoff for the interviews.
The evening began with an 'Inside the Actors' Studio'-type interview
of Willberg, conducted gamely by James Urbaniak, which was a strange
combination of reading-lines-from-a-teleprompter, ultra-informational
responses and the type of deadpan "humorous" exchanges that work for
Bebe Neuwirth on Cheers but fell flat for Willberg on stage. Later
variations of this interview between pieces with other dancers in the
company, with the winsome exception of Julie Betts', didn't advance
the performance either and pulled any choreographic momentum to a
|Choreography by: Kriota Willberg.|
Dancers: Julie Betts, Beth Simons, Katya Vasilaky, Kriota Willberg,
Kindra Windish, with guests Katie Diamond, Diane Dittrick, Nuria Divi, Elena Lopez Sans, Maja Lorkovic, Daniela Rapp, James Urbaniak, Katrina van Zee, Sophie Weber
However, first came the excellent "Folkdance" and "Khlysty Orgy," a
two-in-one piece of strong choreography inspired by Eastern European
dance, costume and story, backed by the energized live music of The
Wharton Tiers Ensemble and danced with gusto by Julie Betts, Beth
Simons, Katya Vasilaky and Kindra Windish. Think peasant women
stomping and spinning to hard-rocking dissonant music with a subtle
Batman-Gunn theme (Folkdance) devolving into a lose-the-dresses orgy
of choreographic debauchery (Khlysty Orgy from the full-length "I,
Rasputin" of 2000).
Willberg's "Doggie Style" was a cute and fairly unexpected "doggie"
striptease with cabaret-style dancing over a chair and
character-specific prosthetics, light but satisfying.
| ||"...take supplies from the dead and wounded, amputate...clean that saw..."|
"Plasticine Adolescent" was an odd '80s-music-video solo with
Vasilaky wrapped in an electrical tape/spider web costume, combining
Fosse and ballet in an awkward and precious style, performed to music
by Aphex Twin.
"Four Cygs" (as in swans) flew back to Eastern Europe in white
dresses, accompanied by softly chugging music by Scott Westerfeld,
danced beautifully by Betts, Simons, Willberg and Windish. This, too,
was a transcendent piece of work, with all elements working together
harmoniously, taken from the full-length "Waterbirds" of 1998.
"Housewife" was a piece meant to address domestic violence against
women, but danced solely by women, this was not readily apparent. In
brief, half the women smacked themselves and fell down and the other
half comforted them, and then all the women slapped themselves, fell
down and writhed. Overall, the piece was disturbing but obscure, as
in the ending when all the women walked toward the audience offering
both hands but then stopped and drew one back into a fist.
"Michelle's Solo" may have been interesting when Michelle Dortignac
danced it in its 1993 debut, but Windish did little with it other
than give a ghostly, other-worldly presence in her wispy white dress
and glowing red hair.
The style of "Danci," performed by Willberg, Simons and Windish, had
much of the awkwardly self-conscious and precious feeling of
"Plasticine Adolescent," though otherwise the pieces shared nothing.
Glittery costumes from Baum's, beautiful really, and an odd but
appealing assortment of music by Mohammed Rafi weren't enough to
propel the choreography.
"Untitled Fight #3" was essentially a lame, slow-motion swordfight,
inspired by Willberg's professed fascination with fight choreography,
not really a dance piece and not really a swordfight.
Thankfully, an in-progress excerpt of "Civil War" ended the evening
on a wacky but amusing note, as the company joined by Katie Diamond,
Maja Larkovic and Katrina Van Zee performed a spirited square dance
with called instructions based on actual Civil War-era "calls"
staged to inspire people by turning war into square-dance theater.
Some examples: "...take supplies from the dead and wounded,"
"amputate...clean that saw," and "decapitate...disperse." Action on
stage swung from apparently normal square dancing to cartoonish
choking and bayonetting, all in good fun.
"Gala Lite" left some strong impressions but too many weak ones as
well. The informational interviewing device made the evening feel
more like a documentary than a dance performance, but the evening did
start and end with very good pieces.
|DECEMBER 4, 2003|
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