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    Makiko Tamura and Ryoji Sasamoto in newsteps fall 2008
    Photo by Giada Alazraki
    Makiko Tamura and Ryoji Sasamoto

    Six Ways to See the World

    newsteps fall 2008 program goes 6 unique places


    A bouncing woman and a calm man give an intriguing first impression to Makiko Tamura's Order Made. Both Tamura and Ryoji Sasamoto are excellent movers, remarkably dynamic, sharp and smooth, in a way that seems unique to Japanese dancers. There is also as much range in the emotional side of this piece, with equally quick changes from crying to laughing, misery to fun, and a gamut of interpersonal relations. Each takes turns carrying the other, too, sometimes in burden and sometimes in nurture or even play. Mostly low light, black costumes and soft music and sounds give the piece a dark tone, and though a spotlit section in the middle has energy and fun, the end in near darkness has her standing silently facing the back wall and him on the floor, losing energy. This is a powerful piece without a backstory, but the backstory of a grandmother's decline into Parkinson's disease, with flashbacks to her youth, makes the piece even more touching.

    Choreography by: Catherine Galasso, Whitney Jacobs & Christopher Campbell, Toni Renee Johnson, Molly Lieber, Siri Peterson, Makiko Tamura.
    Dancers: Makiko Tamura: and Ryoji Sasamoto
    Siri Peterson: and Laurie Berg
    Toni Reese Johnson: Sheri Celentano, Indira Goodwine, Kayla Hamilton, Wen-Jen Huang, Heather N. Seagraves
    Molly Lieber: Ani Javian, Megan Macfarlane
    Catherine Galasso: Brandt Adams, Yuko Mitsuishi
    Whitney Jacobs and Christopher Campbell
    Lighting design by: Joe Doran.

    Related links: Related link
    Chen Dance Center
    November 20-22, 2008

    drop me, I'm falling, like its title, is stark and a bit jarring as well as clever and whimsical. Siri Peterson choreographed this piece she dances with Laurie Berg, and the two make a good pair, both physical and smooth, for the floor and contact work the piece is comprised of. Much of the piece is presented dry and silent, and relies on odd movement and interactions to captivate, such as a bit in which one dancer presses CPR-style on the back of the crouching other until the one on the floor bounces up to sit or stand. Moments of apparent competitiveness add humor, and a fun blackout ending mirrors a blackout beginning.

    John Doe, choreographed by Toni Renee Johnson, is a narrated tableau of misery and despair versus hope, with a protagonist and his/her angel/coach and a trio of dancers. The opening narration written by Gary Kelly about the real experience of being in jail at Rikers Island is simultaneously dispassionate and moving. The storytelling and dancing often take turns, but both are bold and big, with good pacing and voice/musical choices. The ending, in silence, is especially strong.

    My Angle by Molly Lieber, danced by Ani Javian and Megan Macfarlane, is full of rugged contact and occasional sweetness between two women, with song lyrics by She and Him often at odds with the movement onstage. Both women are large, sturdy and appealingly feminine, and they move and work well together. The ending, with the two dancers head-to-head, brought wild applause from much of the audience.

    The wackiest piece of the evening was Catherine Galasso's The Passion of a Hillbilly Greaser, the greaser played by Brandt Adams with a Bride of Frankenstein wig and demeanor, exhorted and abused in Japanese by tiny dynamo Yuko Mitsuishi, who breaks into English only to sing unfamiliar karaoke songs from somewhere (lyrics projected on the back wall), eventually morphing into a boisterous Japanese TV show MC/host. Her blood-curdling scream that ends the piece sticks in memory, but much of the narrative is a bit hazy, though the overall effect is hilarious.

    Unibody, on the other hand, is anything but intentionally funny. Whitney Jacobs and Christopher Campbell perform big, physical dance very seriously, though the end result evokes 1980s music video dance pieces like something in, perhaps, a Fine Young Cannibals video, abstract and edgy but very dancey, in colorful costumes and big 80s eye and face makeup. In a way, it's a refreshing change to see something seemingly of another era performed in all-out earnestness and commitment.

    The panel discussion after the Thursday show revealed some of the process and philosophy both of the choreographers and of the curators and added welcome human clarity to the usually abstract physical poetry vehicle that is dance. This round of Chen Dance Center's newsteps choreographer series was all over the place, in a completely satisfying way.

    NOVEMBER 25, 2008

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