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    Rend and Sew
    Photo by Hiroyuki Ito

    As above, so below

    Clare Byrne gives audiences both earthly and heavenly vantage points in her new "Rend and Sew."


    callout: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...a time to rend, and a time to sew." — Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7

    Choreography by: Clare Byrne.
    Dancers: Janelle Barclay, Donna Bouthillier, Clare Byrne, Sharon Estacio, Kerville Jack, Jared Kaplan, Nicholas Leichter, Theresa Palazzo.
    Sound design by: Stefan Jacobs/Rainwater Sound.
    Lighting Design by Dave Overcamp
    University Settlement
    184 Eldridge Street
    Oct. 16-19, 2003

    Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord; Clare Byrne has thrown out her toys and toilet and created a Dance piece! For one hour broken into two pieces, Byrne and seven other dancers presented a nonstop dance of religious fervor and spiritual sweetness. "Rend and Sew: a dance seen from above and below" used every bit of an old public school gymnasium in the University Settlement, including the balconies. To ensure that everyone in the audience saw half of the show from the balconies and half from the gym floor, the entire audience was swapped up and down during a whimsical, very fun dance intermission between halves. As Byrne says, "Part of my point is to send a spiritual message in the choreography. The people below are seeing it from earth, and the people above are playing angels."

    This was a really ambitious piece from a choreographer who can dance as well as anyone but had previously chosen to primarily create small theater-of-the-absurd pieces with one to four dancers doing minimal dancing. Only in her duets with Nicholas Leichter had Byrne shown pure movement without silly costumes and ridiculous props.

    Part of my point is to send a spiritual message in the choreography. The people below are seeing it from earth, and the people above are playing angels.  
    — Clare Byrne  

    To keep a continuous dance piece fresh for an entire hour is an impressive feat, and one Byrne largely accomplished by offering a wide range of emotions, music and movement, changing smoothly from full group sections to quartets, trios, duets and solos, and using the full group well to charge the large space with energy.

    The beautiful opening sequence had white-clad dancers lying on the floor in a slowly evolving, writhing circle, piling together and then flying apart. Plenty of gospel and choral music enhanced the sometimes mournful, often ecstatic movement onstage, which included violence, sweetness and rapture as well. One entertaining motif of crack-the-whip lines had the outside dancers falling to the floor, sliding around and then popping back onto to their feet before flying offstage, and the energy really got high in the Dixieland jazz segments.

    The stellar second half, viewed as an angel, began with beautiful pentagram floorwork, almost like synchronized swimming, then woke up to an infectious gospel sequence of soft, crouching hand claps and reaching, flicking flat-hand waves. The colorful costumes of the second half reflected the more open, joyous movement as well. Here there was a motif of continuous jumping in place with full spins thrown in periodically to spice up the jumps. This was intensely physical dancing at double speed most of the time, which the dancers somehow pulled off all the way to the offertory, arms-raised ending.

    Every one of the four dancers Byrne worked with for the first time in this piece — Janelle Barclay, Sharon Estacio, Kerville Jack and Jared Kaplan — was an integral part of this new, larger group, and the original members of her company Donna Bouthillier and Theresa Palazzo as well as duet partner Leichter all fit together seamlessly with the new members.

    NOVEMBER 5, 2003

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