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    Katy Pyle, Karinne Keithley, and Chris Yon in Tenderenda. in Karinne Keithley
    Katy Pyle, Karinne Keithley, and Chris Yon in "Tenderenda."

    Out of the woods

    In Karinne Keithley's "The Restrain Refrain of St. Laurentius Tenderenda, a liturgy is composed in the belly of an adorable bear.


    Karinne Keithley reveals a choreographic intelligence that is mercifully lowbrow. The resulting dance-theater experience is a gesamkunstwerk that captivates with understated tinkling tones and tiptoeing trees; their branches (arms) are directionals to a better universe.

    Choreography by: Karinne Keithley and performers.
    Includes individual dances: "Wooded Place"; "Tenderenda" or "The Restrain Refrain of St. Laurentius Tenderenda"
    Dancers: Karinne Keithley, Jeff Larson, Katy Pyle, Peter Schmitz, Chris Yon, Melissa Briggs, Kimiye Corwin, Ruthie Epstein, Taryn Griggs, Mindy Nelson, Erin Oen, Sara Smith, Netta Yerushalmy..
    Music by: Karinne Keithley, Ein Gruss Von Wolfgansee, Trio Exvoco.
    Production design by: Chaja Brdsong, Swati Argade, Mindy Nelson.
    Art direction by: Chaja Brdsong, Swati Argade, Mindy Nelson.
    Sound design by: Karinne Keithley.
    Set design by: Chris Protas with Mariangela Fremura, Tyler Loftis, Dubi and Illil Talpaz.
    Costumes by: Chaja Brdsong, Swati Argade, Mindy Nelson.
    Lighting design by: Kathy Kaufman.
    Icons and furniture: Rodney Weber, Gina Siepel, Sara Smith.
    Text: Hugo Ball (tr.Malcolm Green).
    Danspace Project
    St. Mark's Church, 131 E. 10th St.
    Jan. 13-16, 2005

    Keithley's program at Danspace begins with "Wooded Place" to Caroline Bergvall's recitation of a line from Dante's Inferno, repeated in its many English translations over 700 years. "Halfway into a wood...misplaced in a dark forest." The compilation is surprisingly musical. In Keithley's solo walk-around; the babe-in-the-woods searches for her way with irreproachable singularity and tender warmth.

    Three painted set pieces designed by Chris Protas lend a long ago quality. Muted earthy colors of woods or hovel, something's happening, but what? A center panel could be a figure reading, and the papyrus is turned toward us; it's like an eye chart that never comes into focus. The non-specificity of the set is intriguing and Keithley's sophisticated sound and pointed movement convey the more literal content of her dances.

    Chris Yon and Katy Pyle in Karinne Keithley  
    Chris Yon and Katy Pyle
    "The Restrain Refrain of St. Laurentius Tenderenda" is Keithley's 'sideways' adaptation of "Tenderenda der Phantast" an esoteric novella by Dada poet Hugo Ball. The 1914-1920 work still has its cult following. Jonathan Hammer's creative illustrated version "Ball and Hammer" was recently published by Yale University Press. From a text that's intended to confound, Keithley weaves a poignant and cogent faux folk tale, or contemporary legend. An electronic ringing brings us back to the rustic time of 'wall phones.'

    Witolde (played artfully by Katy Pyle) hears awful news. Her parents call to say they are abandoning her and she's alone in the world. Her costume recalls Gretel of the brother and sister pair. Pyle's real-life husband Jeff Larson is endearing as a dancing bear. He wears a plain brown shirt and pants, and neatly trimmed beard, but his movement imagines the inner world of a bear, and the psyche of man. This man/bear however is the chosen receptacle of the liturgy of a Saint. Uda (Keithley) chronicles her time in a large book while a recorded voice reads the narrative. But Peter Schmitz tells most of the tale from the Danspace balcony. Gnimm (Chris Yon) is a gawking chimera with a tail and horns on his back, though he is always upright. With his lumbering movement and patched on animal appendages, the committed performer cliques with Witolde and Uda. He and Witolde are playful while Uda is like the thoughtful artist or slightly more serious older sister. Each exhibits the 'mental cleanliness' Ball speaks of in his "Tenderenda."

    A program note warns of semblance to a 'kindergarten play.' In some sequences the text is merely and a bit awkwardly enacted like a children's clapping game. 'It's only partly musical' (from Ball and Hammer.) In his epilogue essay Hammer explains, "The Zurich Dadaists were hardly more than children whose learning adventure was characterized not by educated innocence but by the crushing realization and horror of war."

      Karinne Keithley in Karinne Keithley
      Karinne Keithley
    A small hymnal is given with the program and we're encouraged to read while the performers get ready for "Tenderenda." No intermission is worked into the ninety-five minute performance and this is only slightly punishing. In the quasi-religious handbook, and Kathy Kaufman's lighting that features the stained glass church windows, a sense of the hallowed steers the irreverence. The peasant maids of Nijinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" are evoked in Chaja Birdsong's costumes. But the trees, in Keithley's naturocentric perspective and as costumed by Swati Argade, are regal and statuesque in gold brocade. Toes are eloquently pointed in socks or furry boots.

    A love of the language of movement and a unique performative voice informs the work of this emerging theater artist. There are moments of musicality when the dancing transcends its interpretative purpose, as in duets performed on the knees and on all fours, bear solos, and even sometimes in the swaying branches of the corps of trees. Keithley's fine score provides a solid base. Exceptional harmonized verses of Keithley and Pyle delight and the narration is clear and compelling.

    In Keithley's choreographic religion, the suffering are anointed. Witolde is sainted for her trials. She is the only one to change costumes, beatific in a cardinal colored satiny robe and holding a pinwheel in one hand.

    JANUARY 21, 2005

    Reader comments on Karinne Keithley:

  • Tenderenda   from cara galowitz, Jan 26, 2005
  • tenderenda   from jonathan hammer, Feb 25, 2005
  • Tenderenda   from malcolm green, Apr 13, 2012

  • Post a comment on "Karinne Keithley"