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    Reality dances

    CORA's "Elsewhere" is a forbidding territory uncomfortably close to home.


    'Cora' may be most comfortable with the subject of discomfort. A Soho Joyce program that is the flipside of lyric, includes the 2002 "Good Side" (a scene from "Shortcomings") and the new "Elsewhere." Even joyful penultimate flashes don't deny the disaffection.

    Choreographer Shannon Hummel performs "Good Side," to Chopin in a beautiful emerald chiffon cocktail dress with a dysfunctional zipper. There's dark humor in her intentionally clumsy pirouettes. Lifting her dress she reveals her control briefs — and also the unglamorous, uncomfortable aspects of being a woman. In "Good Side," Hummel sheds light on blind spots in 'the male gaze.'

    Choreography by: Shannon Hummel.
    Dancers: Julie Betts, Lisa Bleyer, Galois Cohen, Donna Costello, Shannon Hummel, Anna Smith.
    Music by: Chopin, Karinne Keithley.
    Production design by: Kathryn Nudelman.
    Art direction by: Kathryn Nudelman.
    Costumes by: Kathryn Nudelman.
    Lighting design by: Severn Clay.
    In "Elsewhere" the tension's at a maximum. Lisa Bleyer's drama follows obvious trauma and reaches levels of high anxiety. The others attempt empathy but retreat into cold paralysis. Julie Betts is especially ferocious when approached.

    The scene is set without dˇcor and with only the drab costumes assembled by Kathryn Nudelman. Karinne Keithley's sound consists of a worn recording of "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" and incidental motorcycle revs; the faint sound of a cart rolling on a wood floor overhead (is it in the score?), and the trail of the needle on the final blank bit of vinyl. The music evokes elsewhere. It's soft and sweet but doesn't lunge to please. The movement too, is most expressive when emotionally guarded, as in Betts's fetal ending or Donna Costello's vague appeals.

      They give new meaning to the word 'stage presence.' Watching them standing still or shifting their weight raises questions rather than spirits.
    The dancers with their faraway gazes (they spot some point just beyond us in the audience), face outward from a spread out circular formation; each vapidly confronts the world beyond the stage. The stressed Bleyer faces the backdrop. They give new meaning to the word 'stage presence.' Watching them standing still or shifting their weight raises questions rather than spirits.

    The dance tightened in several sequences of repeated gestures and backward falls into the circle — highlights with rhythm and intensity. Games, though often woven into dances, (think of Balanchine's "Prodigal Son,") here are reduced to essentials, truncated and a promising element of Cora's expressive vocabulary.

    At one point the scattered dancers project a perfect line of shadows in Severn Clay's lighting design. The dance falls into place in this intelligible passage. The illusion of regimentation and effortlessness is so satisfying. "Elsewhere" could go further with more of this kind of sensational stagecraft.

    Costello is an adept and engaging dance-actor. And the formidable Betts is only annoyed by her clinging attention. She unsuccessfully attempts to appeal to each. (Galois Cohen and Anna Smith complete the competent and committed cast.) They jump at her, and at each other; Cora's signature contact theater simulates the reciprocal and reactive behaviors in relationships.

    Pitted against each other, they're parts of a problem, its resolution only looks possible when the group falls in together as if creeping toward a common goal. When the resistance finally melts. Smiles break out and there's playful touch even. They check their hands as if for blood. I don't think they find themselves complicit or effective.

    Bleyer is rocked on the floor between Betts's legs as she stands over her. It's like a sad lullaby. The dancers seem pacified, but there's a fear factor."Elsewhere" is forbidding territory, with bickering duets, no pretty design, and little 'security.' It's uncomfortably close to home.

    MARCH 8, 2005

    Reader comments on Elsewhere:

  • Shannon Hummel   from Karmy, Nov 28, 2005

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