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    Daniela Hoff, Katie Key, Miranda Mikesh, and Preston Burger in Talk to Me in Three
    Photo by John Martin
    Daniela Hoff, Katie Key, Miranda Mikesh, and Preston Burger in "Talk to Me"

    Three Versions of Reality

    Daniela Hoff Dance Company, Vissi Dance Theater and BernierDance


    Clark Studio Theater put three dance companies together in one evening and called it "Three." Daniela Hoff Dance Company, BernierDance and Vissi Dance Theater each showed two pieces.

    Choreography by: Daniela Hoff, Courtney Ffrench, Cindy Bernier.
    Dancers: Daniela Hoff Dance Company: Hoff, Preston Burger, Katie Key, Miranda Mikesh
    Vissi Dance Theater: Perdella Jn. Baptiste, Jalila Bell, Gina Bombara, Evan Breed, Tonika Custalow, Juan Espinosa, Courtney Ffrench, Yukari Ikegaya, Jolie Manza, Holly Mendoza, Ariel Polanco, Rachel Soucie, Susan Toni
    BernierDance: Cindy Bernier, Rebecca Bone, Melodie Casta, Michael Freddino, Eunhee Lee, Ai Notohara, Andrea Rossi, Nancy Schwartz, Liz Tevolini, Osamu Uehara, KT Wilson
    Lighting design by: Matthew Cecchinis.
    Clark Studio Theater May 30, 31, June 1

    Daniella Hoff Dance company showed a full-length version of the quartet "Talk to Me," made of beautifully evolving, soft, crisp Steve Reich music with beautifully evolving soft, crisp movement to go with it, using 4 folding chairs as simple but effective physical elements and metaphorical symbols of inertia and safety. In a dance about the fear of change and growth, leaving the chairs represents leaving the familiar, and Hoff's choreography captures this perfectly. Soft individual movements of reaching and retracting, slipping off and returning to chairs, group synchrony on chairs, the eventual first forays out of chairs; all come in a seamless progression, until the chairs are left behind. Interestingly, when the Reich music stops and becomes accordian music by Astor Piazzolla or music by Philip Glass, the dancing becomes a bit lost, either intentionally or not. There are plenty of interesting partnerings and contact interactions, all done really smoothly and matter-of-factly by Hoff, Katie Key, Preston Burger and Miranda Mikesh. A duet between Burger and Mikesh in which he smoothly keeps her upright and on a chair as she slumps or reaches is especially good. As the music returns to Reich or strong Philip Glass, the choreography gets back in synch and ends with energy and grace, with an odd ending of Hoff dancing in spotlight, no chair in sight.

    BernierDance explores large issues of violence and peacefulness with what usually look like lost souls in hell or some sort of purgatory, running around scared, in "Notes from the Dead." There is not much to distinguish individual dancers, though KT Wilson is one who can make any movement look passionate and precise. The one interesting conceit is the cycling of "souls" to soldiers and back, as each wraith in white takes a turn at being a soldier in fatigues, usually in pairs for some duet partnering.

    The first Vissi Dance Theater piece, "Busting Out," is strong Ailey/Graham-style movement paired surprisingly well with Bjork music, with a spotlit soloist in full Ailey mode alternating with a line of strong women in sharp Graham symmetry. Tonika Custalow moves with heat and intensity as the soloist, and Gina, Bombara, Evan Breed, Holly Mendoza, Rachel Soucie and Susan Tori are strong, graphic and fresh as mint in the group dancing. This piece has striking purity and life, choreographed by Courtney Ffrench.

    BernierDance's second piece, "Myth in Pink," is a trio of bridesmaids doing silly and predictable things in pink dresses.

    Daniela Hoff collaborated with videographer William Stone to make a succinct, effective piece of dismay, using the televised state of the union speeches of our current president cut up into "Plural Nounsss." No comment choreographically or otherwise is really necessary, and Hoff wisely watches the video with the audience much of the time and moves just enough to convey a quizzical bemusement at what has been a nightmare for seven years, a man trying to scare us for no apparent good reason.

    Vissi Dance Theater's "The Heretic, the Infidel & the War" is described in the program as "an excerpt from a full-length dance drama set in the turmoil of the crusades." This piece is so over the top that initially it seemed like watching a dance sequence from the Monty Python crusades of "Spamalot." The dancing is fast and furious and very demanding, and the staging, costumes and intensity give the piece a martial feeling even before any choreographed fighting. The Christian uniforms are recognizable and original, but the Muslims look great in black fabric with purple symbols.

    Other than a piece each addressing current social or political issues, there seems to be nothing tying these three dance companies together, and perhaps there doesn't need to be. Each had their moments, and some used them better than others.

    JUNE 11, 2008

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