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    Photo by Frederique Porter

    Transnational stepping in Chinatown

    Mulberry Street Theater's latest installation of "Newsteps" showcases an international array of dancemakers.


    The Newsteps series at Mulberry Street Theater April 15- 17 presented a multi- national group of dance makers. Daniela Hoff, Felix Burkle, and Petra Martin are all originally from Germany. Tzveta Kassabova was born in Bulgaria, Ryoko Kudo in Japan, and Carlos Orta in Caracas, before eventually migrating to New York.

    Choreography by: Felix Burkle, Ryoko Kudo, Tzveta Kassabova, Daniela Hoff, Petra Martin, Carlos Orta.
    Dancers: Felix Burkle, Ryoko Kudo, Tzveta Kassabova, Daniela Hoff, Daman Harun, Petra Martin, Mark Taylor, Eve Chalom, Elinor Harrison, David Liu, Jennifer Pike, Edgar Rodriguez.
    Lighting design by: Joe Doran.
    Mulberry Street Theater
    70 Mulberry St., Second Floor
    April 15-17, 2004

    The highlight of the program was Kassabova's solo "Happy 29 of January." The piece begins in the dark. We hear only a rhythmic sound that could be heavy fabric being whipped through the air. The light comes up to reveal a bouncing Tzveta with silver balloons tied around her arms, legs, torso, and head. She bounces downstage and lands in a pool of red light looking like a very content bubble princess. She flurried through space with excited turns, flying limbs, and staccato shifts that I worked hard to see amidst the bouncing balloons popping around her. But, when the balloons were all gone, the movement was too. Devastated and fully revealed, she shifted into small unobtrusive steps, backing slowly away from the audience. I was afraid that this piece would end too soon, but thankfully she continued. Kassabova is an intriguing performer who brought me instantly into her world and I didn't want to leave. The dance ended with small piano- playing or typing fingers downstage. It seemed a fitting conclusion, although I still could have watched more.

    In Daniela Hoff's "Picture Book," danced by Hoff and Daman Harun, the dancers walk slowly downstage side by side sometimes holding hands sometimes subtlely pulling away. They are constantly interrupted by eclectic fragments of music from somber Scarlatti to the campy Please Shoot Your Husband by Tim Fischer, through which they portray the stages of a relationship. I was impressed by the time element of this piece. Rather than progressing in the "usual" way of intimate relationships, time seemed to reverse itself beginning with an unresolved battle, then through uneventful and predictable bliss, the "make the partner happy" phase, and ending downstage with "when we first met" before quickly reversing again and summarizing the trip on the way back upstage. Picture Book featured strong performances and presence from Hoff and Harun. I enjoyed watching them interact in each very different segment of the piece. The concept and choreography were well constructed, although the sound design seemed a bit choppy at times.

    She bounces downstage and lands in a pool of red light looking like a very content bubble princess.  

    "Starting Point," a collaboration between Felix Burkle and Ryoko Kudo, was performed with the house lights on. I would assume that they intended for this to make the environment less formal and thereby include us in their world. However, in this case, I actually felt more separate from the performers when I could see exactly where the audience ended and the performance space began.

    The tall, lanky Burkle and petite and strong Kudo dance together well. They were very connected through their partnering and had some interesting air moments. However, the piece became very circular, lacking dynamic changes that would have held my attention. Burkle and Kudo maintained a downward focus for most of the piece — looking neither out in space or at each other. I am not sure this was an intentional choreographic choice, more likely something overlooked by the performers.

    Carlos Orta's "With Bare Feet" closed the program. This was the only group work in the evening. It was refreshing to see six people dancing together on stage. The music gave the piece a Latin flair and the interlocking arms and partnering referenced the tango. Dancer David Liu was a strong performer throughout, but the other male dancers lacked his maturity and skill, making the men's trio in the middle of With Bare Feet trying to watch.

    Also on the program was Petra Martin's "Underneath a Clear Blue Sky" — an experiment in video and dance that could use some editing.

    APRIL 25, 2004

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