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    Marina Libel and Matthew Moses in an earlier South Pleasant presentation. in You Travel Light
    Marina Libel and Matthew Moses in an earlier South Pleasant presentation.

    Setting stories in space

    South Pleasant Company plays with narrative economy in their dance-theater program, "You Travel Light."


    South Pleasant Company combines the dance-theater creations of Marina Libel, Cristina Septien and Andrew Sloat. In their recent season at BAX, they chose to present works created separately, straying from their earlier concerts of collaboratively developed full-length dance theater works. The evening as a whole was a set of strategies for dealing with narrative.

    Choreography by: Marina Libel, Cristina Septien, Andrew Sloat.
    Dancers: Jessica Almasy, Emily Alpren, Marina Libel, Juliana Monin, Annie Lok, Cristina Septien, Niae Knight, Michael Arrus, Anya Guyer, Andrew Sloat, Zack Fine, Megan Walsh, Mary Archias, Matthew Moses..
    Lighting design by: Andrew Sloat.

    Related links: Official site
    Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX)
    421 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn
    July 9-17, 2004

    The reunion of things often separated as dance and theater takes several forms. The folks from South Pleasant take the approach of generating fairly straightforward narrative pieces of text, then using them as dance vocabulary, staging them in space choreographically, following a logic of form that belongs as much to a musical composition as an unfolding story. In Septien's "Photograph Memory," two complementary stories unfold with the economy of an etude. Simple but precise pathways and sequences, repeated with shifting roles, become supports for the intertwined stories. There is no abstract dance movement in this piece, but it contains as much attention to gestural exactitude as might be expected from a dance.

    Marina Libel's "Edith and Margaret" homes in on detail instead of structure. Libel narrates the story of a doll-maker and a doll she has made. She takes pleasure in the way little events hold a story's worth of affection. When Niae Knight makes a jam sandwich for tea, it seems like a new and wondrous idea to spread the jam all the way to the edge of the bread. Short gestural dance sequences eventually make sense as being related to the story.

    When Niae Knight makes a jam sandwich for tea, it seems like a new and wondrous idea to spread the jam all the way to the edge of the bread.  

    A video directed by Andrew Sloat perfectly captures the vibe of this group. Smart, energetic, very good-natured. Wearing t-shirts with letters on the front and back, they spell out a little rhyme of transformation. Again the materials are very simple, but sweetly woven together.

    The weave takes on the most speed and energy in Septien's hilarious B.T.T.F., based on answers to a survey about the movie "Back to the Future." Septien is especially agile at turning corners in the narrative material, finding instant joinders with other parts of the story. Again using nimble spatial patterns and roles — in this case one person who recounts their memory of the movie, and two chair-based re-enactors — the text element is set within a choreographic logic. The play off of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd's performances enables a level of performative entry and confidence (Libel, Emily Alpren and Matthew Moses are the excellent performers) that makes this piece stand out from the rest of the show. It takes on a further tightness and attack that really satisfies. Still, the folding up of the layers of narrative, and comedy leave room for the tender message of this nostalgic rumination about going back to the past.

    South Pleasant Company has found a dance-theater mode that works best not in the addition of gestures to stories, but in the way that choreographic constructional logic folds narrative in half, slides it through itself, retrogrades and plays in the inverse, with a delicate sense of time and balance. Their collaborative good spirit promises more smart work on the way.

    JULY 28, 2004

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