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      Food for Thought
    Baby Greens

    Young Americans parade, evade, assault and enthrall at Danspace Project's winter canned food drive.


    Weaving my way through St. Marks Church to take my seat, I notice that there is something electric about the crowd. Filled with many young faces excited to cheer on their cronies, there is an unusually loud bustling about and laughter ricocheting between the columns lining the stage. Feet tap the snow off their boots and plod their way into the sanctuary. Meandering in the semi-circle design of the theater, familiar faces engage in chatty conversation. As soon as curator Miguel Guiterrez steps into the center stage, the chats become whispers, kisses on the cheek and then frantic maneuvering to oversized and carpeted bleacher seats. He opens the night with a list of 23 things the choreographers want us to know including: "#13 — We are making art in wartime"; "#22 — yes I have an axe to grind, but it doesn't mean I don't love you"; and "#22 — and five-sixths — wouldn't it be great if the artists, old and young, the critics, the presenters, the curators, the audience, everyone, would just talk to each other after shows instead of doing the old cat 'n' mouse or I see you but I don't see you game as if we were all at our first junior high school mixer?" In this January 28th installment of the Food For Thought series, the oldest choreographer is 23 years old. Tonight is titled Young Americans.

    Choreography by: Eleanor Bauer, Beth Gill, Chase Granoff, Isabel Lewis, Michael Helland and Daniel Linehan.
    Danspace Project
    St. Mark's Church, 131 E. 10th St.
    Opens: Jan. 28, 2005

    As the lights went up on the duet "part of presence: space," the bare stage divided itself between a dancer in green sweatpants and a guy with a laptop. Chase Granoff gradually sunk the audience into what seemed a study in entrapment and violence. To a sound score by Jon Moniaci (the guy with the laptop), Granoff experimented with shifting and flapping his pelvis, stepping to his own private rhythm yet emulating a common African dance aesthetic. He made voyeurs of us by facing away for a prolonged period of time and as his internal tantrum wound up, banging a flurry with his arms, he threw himself to the marley where he writhed, shook and fought. Moniaci rolled the score from sparse to punctuated to polyrhythmic, though at times the noise was an assault on the ears. Granoff left me wondering had I been watching an improvisation or did he intend to leave us with nothing?

    "Precious Little Something," in contrast, took us through a keyhole. Two men, dry as a thirsty throat, traveled down the middle, fell to opposite sides and then, in the dark, let out distressing screams. As if this never happened, they reappeared perched upon chairs at the upstage diagonals. There, they went into a litany of signals and movement, communicating across what seemed miles. Hand gestures formed bird beaks and claws, adding occasional odd flicks in their wrists. The piece evolved into cleverly timed, much larger movement, their precision easy to call upon. Michael Helland and Daniel Linehan remained true to the portrayal of something / someone newly born, curious and therefore funny, desperate in moments, and in conclusion, caught between the need for and fear of another.

      Telling us a story, she paraded a phrase which featured a swoon, a battement, the wild beating of a piano, and what looked like a Loie Fuller "ta-da".
    And then out burst "Eleanor!" Eleanor Bauer prattled in with "IwantIwantIwant" (and other such mantras) over and over until she was drawn into a swan-like pose center stage. Telling us a story, she paraded a phrase which featured a swoon, a battement, the wild beating of a piano, and what looked like a Loie Fuller "ta-da". Bauer repeated this at different angles but maintained the witty flash of her smile as a fixed comic interlude. She then read text appropriated from "A Portrait of the Artist as Worker ", teasing us with lines such as ""You are everywhere and making everyone wonder where you are." And finally, while eating her own script, she gave us one last look at her phrase. Music began as she marched out of the sanctuary with "This is the part where I disappear." Bauer struck that fine chord which gives us permission to laugh at ourselves.

    "Marginal Strip," by Beth Gill and Dancers, felt just that: thin, sparse and exclusionary. Perhaps in another context it would have popped. But here, amidst its Young American peers and in a traditional venue, the extension cords, tv monitors, boom box, and mini tape player only gave a very bare boned sketch of some idea thought up by someone somewhere far away. The movement, also flat, sparse and sluggish, was a match in temperature but did not attempt to implicate the audience.

    After the brief pause between pieces, a young black woman with russet locks and a microphone emerged from the shadows. Laura Gilbert began "19th Century Amusement Park" with small enigmatic gestures and soft mutterings of crazy people at Coney Island after dark. Certain lines such as "...emptiness as the name for that something you don't know is missing," slipped through, punctuating the hush. Periodically she would throw her arms up and back, arching her torso to the roll of crashing waves. The score, while at first minimal ambient guitar and a synthesized heartbeat, gathered speed and then broke into untamed electric rock. Laura traced the perimeter of the floor where we sat enthralled, with fervent turns that sometimes became leaps or even a tripping over of her own feet. She flew by several times, giggling as she went, until she ran forward, lunged for the mike stand and took it down with her in a frenzy of euphoria.

    After sitting through five unrelated solos and duets, fatigue can sneak its way in. Yet "Scriptura," the closing piece of the evening, revived us with unison. To a score and live accompaniment by Chris Lancaster, the trio of women made quick directional changes, slicing through the space with arms and legs, bare legs which peered out from beneath short skirts. Isabel Lewis, choreographer, offered us an odd floor slapping ceremony, an assertive duet to live cello and light changes between yellow to a warm blue. "Scriptura" was an evident choice to close the night — it simply looked like it felt good.

    FEBRUARY 18, 2005

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