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    Satoshi Takao and Darcy Naganuma in Sai in Naganuma Dance: UNbridLeD
    Photo by Yi-Chun Wu
    Satoshi Takao and Darcy Naganuma in "Sai"

    Angry Words Danced Well

    Naganuma Dance unbridled


    "Unbridled" is definitely the best word to describe the Naganuma Dance program that packed quite a bit into one evening at Cunningham Studio: soft and hard movement, gender and violence issues, language and culture, 20 performers. As John Lydon of Public Image Limited put it so well, "anger is an energy" (Rise, 1985), and there is plenty of both in "Unbridled".

    Choreography by: Darcy Naganuma.
    Dancers: Claire Baione, Taela Brooks, Mallory Butcher, Michael Garber, Kambi Gathesha, Yoshinori Ito, Michele Jongeneel, Ae-Soon Kim, Nicola Marino, Darcy Naganuma, Yumiko Niimi, Nile H. Russell, Satoshi Takao, Charly Wenzel, Maegan Woodin with Olivia Chandler, Emma Codman, Saki Masuda, Caroline Quon, Ellie Underwood Special guest: Eboni Hogan .
    Lighting design by: Nick Hung.
    Spoken word poetry: Eboni Hogan.
    Cunningham Studio
    May 22 and 24, 2008

    Going with the punk flow, the first piece of the show, "Smoke and Mirrors", is either a beautiful, softly sexy but chaste duet, or puppylove/brideworship porn, pretty to watch but low in calories, with an almost motionless 10-foot bride sprinkling rose petals as two kids toy with each other.

    The next duo is a pair of brutal poems by Eboni Hogan. In an interesting and unnerving twist, the same basic poem is separated into "What Woman Will Do (Female Commandments)" and "What Man Will Do (Male Commandments)" as harsh, often contradictory, rules of the game of life given to children as they grow up. The first is danced by a sweet young girl (Emma Codman) vamping in adult clothes and playing with makeup and the second by a young man (Kambi Gathesha), in a much more developed solo that is fully his own.

    The centerpiece of the show was "Sai", originally a duet, now expanded to a miniplay in several sections. "Sai" represents Naganuma's desire to connect with her Japanese ancestry and culture by telling a bit of her paternal great-grandmother's story. The result is ambitious and impressive: the core duet is heartfelt, athletic and beautiful; the Japanese festival scene (with 10 dancers) is fresh and fun; and the solo of the elderly grandmother is soft and touching. Naganuma and Satoshi Takao in the duet and Yumiko Niimi in the solo give excellent nuanced performances.

    Michele Jongeneel with Nile H. Russell (left) and Yoshinori Ito in Naganuma Dance: UNbridLeD
    Photo by Yi-Chun Wu
    Michele Jongeneel with Nile H. Russell (left) and Yoshinori Ito

    "Kindle" continued the theme of women facing rough options in different cultures, this time addressing the ongoing crime of bride murder by in-laws in India that goes largely unpunished. This is a new piece and may need more development, though a structure of parallel, connected, but separate dances works pretty well.

    Mallory Butcher's solo, performed to more angry, smart words from Eboni Hogan reading live onstage in "Her 10 Cents", addresses the same issue and more in a visceral, punishing dance of tortured feminity. "Taste of God" then showcases Hogan solo, in a pissed twist on the concept of a male God.

    "Unveiled" gets back to straight, flatout dancing and some of Naganuma's basic strengths: athletic, almost overactive dancing by dancers passing through the stage in waves of motion, always threatening collision, with driving and diverse musical choices and plenty of partnering interactions.

    And "Tower of (Wo)man" stands by itself. What first appears to be a very good male quartet piece, some sort of male island where commands are barked at neophytes in multiple languages, eventually becomes a sort of male tribe meets female tribe and the two mix well piece. Satoshi Takao and Michelle Jongeneel have impressive prominent roles, and and at one point Charly Wenzel seems to launch into Michael Jordan space as she bursts out of the crowd and seems to hang in the air. The basic premise is to have Hogan's male and female commandments delivered in as many languages as possible, here at least six, which adds an element of tension and menace, but ultimately the dancing takes over and the piece becomes one continuous blast of motion that somehow returns to earth and lands well.

    There is so much darkness and bitter anger in "UNbridLed" that the soft moments, when they do come, are that much sweeter, but overall the energy created from that anger is a huge driving force that just sweeps everything in its path and leaves behind strong survivors in a cleared landscape.

    MAY 28, 2008

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