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  •  REVIEW: AD HOC BALLET

      Amy Brandt at the end of The Lucy Poems in Ad Hoc Ballet
      Photo by Steven Schreiber
      Amy Brandt at the end of The Lucy Poems
    Ad Hoc Ballet Flirts with Madness

    The Lucy Poems uses ballet and modern dance movement to explore mental illness

    By QUINN BATSON
    Offoffoff.com


    Deborah Lohse is breaking through old ice to find new ground in dance. Using pointe-shoe ballet and sound design as additional tools, she is mixing things up to go somewhere new. The result is mixed, intriguing and successful. Her Ad Hoc Ballet company gave its first performance of "The Lucy Poems" at Lincoln Center's Clark Studio Theater.

    AD HOC BALLET
    Choreography by: Deborah Lohse.
    Dancers: Deborah Lohse, Amy Brandt, Elizabeth Brown, Candice Thompson.
    Music by: Bang on a Can, Michael Gordon, Nathan Hubbard, David Lang, John Oswald & Julia Wolfe.
    Production design by: Amanda Waal & LOLAstretch.
    Art direction by: Amanda Waal & LOLAstretch.
    Costumes by: Amanda Waal & LOLAstretch.
    Lighting design by: Brant Thomas Murray.
      
    "The Lucy Poems" is an evening-length piece addressing mental illness and its impact on those who live with it, which includes close family members and friends of mentally ill people. Lohse has broken the piece into 11 smaller pieces of numbered verses and cantos, a clever and appropriate division given the narrative flow of the piece, with Lohse dancing the solo verses of the ill person and the other three dancers dancing most of the longer cantos.

    This is a challenging piece on so many levels. Lohse performs the opening as one deeply submerged in illness, framed by barely glowing bare lightbulbs echoing the darkness of the place where she is. When the well-matched but distinctly individual trio of Amy Brandt, Elizabeth Brown and Candice Thompson later enter on pointe shoes, the effect is strangely jarring and disorienting in a modern dance context, sometimes elegant and sometimes simply odd.

      
      pointe shoes. . . in a modern dance context [are] sometimes elegant and sometimes simply odd
      
    The beauty of using ballet and pointe shoes as a reference here is the easy transition of balletic arm or hand positions into expressive and quirky, vaguely disturbed gestures and movements, using the inherently unnatural but elegant quality of classic ballet as a platform for naturalistic, sometimes bird-like movement. At the same time, there is quite a bit of unballetic contact, with collisions, slaps and catches.

    Throughout, Lohse makes excellent choices of music and sound design. Her ill solos are accompanied by the pulsing noise sounds of Nathan Hubbard, set against the sparsely musical flute and piano-based accompaniment of the 3 other dancers by David Lang's music. When Lohse's character breaks out to dance toward sanity, Michael Gordon's work is there both to support her and echo the slowly lifting chaos in her mind.

    Lohse's long solo is a showcase of her physical and expressive strengths. She has an uncanny ability to go from violent to soft movement instantly, even within the same motion. Other solos that work well are ones by Candice Thompson, another scintillating mover, and the last, slightly mad solo by Amy Brandt, who has the delicate birdlike quality and increasingly distraught appearance of someone distinctly on the edge. Also strong is lighting design by Brant Thomas Murray that makes the ending solo poignant and gives an ethereal feel to much of the rest of the piece.

    MAY 16, 2007
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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