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    Excelling with What's at Hand

    Nathan Trice presents work in four adjoining dance studios


    "Do it with what you've got" is quickly becoming a mantra for these times, and there is a lot to be said for it as a way of getting where you need to go. Nathan Trice presented four pieces simultaneously in four studios at Laguardia High School, with four different audiences cycling through the studios until they'd seen all four pieces, and it worked, well.

    Choreography by: Nathan Trice.
    Dancers: Jacquie Dumas, Jason Fordham, Jenni Hong, Julia Kobevic, Akiko Morita, Ryoji Sasamoto, Ellenore P. Scott, Shannan Smith, Nathan Trice, Claire Tunkle.
    LaGuardia High School
    February 19-21, 2009

    Us plays with the ways we communicate and watch each other, using choreography and chair placement. School desks make surprisingly good seats by shifting audience expectations and simultaneously giving each audience member a little zone of their own and an easily violated personal space.

    In his solo Me, Trice does some social experimenting, placing most audience members in chairs that face mirrors rather than the dance floor and letting them decide whether to watch him in the mirror, watch each other in the mirror, turn around in their seat or even turn their desk around. Being good "students", of course, no one moves their desk, and Trice has fun dancing right up to, over and around people and seeing what their reactions are. It is a solo of falling and stumbling spins, equal parts awkward and acrobatic. The unpredictability of the movement also creates low-level anxiety in the audience, who are then that much less certain when Trice approaches whether they should show concern for him or be slightly wary of him. And the whole piece is done in silence, making all interactions nonverbal and tentative. This is a well structured piece of chaos and confusion, timed to the same 13 minutes the other 3 pieces take.

    really interesting pacing and structure, progressing in fits and starts but also steadily working its way to an overall meaning by the end of the piece  

    The quintet We of Jacquie Dumas, Akiko Morita, Ryoji Sasamoto, Julia Kobevic and Ellenore P. Scott, explores semiverbal or preverbal vocal communication, with sections similar to movie scenes like the apes scene in 2001: a space odyssey or Milla Jovavich's Fifth Element taking her first stabs at using human words. This is the most standard dance piece in presentation, with the audience sitting in rows along one wall, although the fourth wall seemed to be not the audience but the stage left wall-length mirror. This piece, like all the pieces of the evening, has really interesting pacing and structure, progressing in fits and starts but also steadily working its way to an overall meaning by the end of the piece, with slow or calm sections balancing frenetic or frantic sections. The dancing throughout is impressive, and the singing is beautiful, too; some of the most effective parts are one performer singing smoothly over the noisy jumble of the rest of the group and the eventual singing of the whole group before subsiding to the floor in peace or exhaustion. There also seems to be a theme of the individual freaking out or struggling to push the group forward, often being shunned or restrained and then reincorporated after their solo stab at communication or expression.

    The duet You and I of Hilary Thompson and Jason Fordham is sweet and quirky, with a hiphop movement flavor and an intriguing splintered conversation. The audience is plopped loosely in the center of the room to watch the performers sitting and moving along the walls. Fordham has a strong presence, unperturbed but focused, even while doing complicated bits. Thompson holds her own, too, and the duo are fun to watch, often breaking into quick little physical conversations of slaps and grasps. The conversation that eventually emerges intact after various versions of disjointedness is fairly mundane but also fairly humorous, the subtle argument of a couple working together.

    In the spirit of the first sentence of this review, the trio Us isn't part of what this reviewer was able to see and so can't be meaningfully discussed, but the gist is that it is a piece even more about words than movement, effectively making the progression from the nonverbal solo through the preverbal quintet and fractured-conversation duet to a fully verbal exploration of how we humans interact.

    It's always inspiring to see what people can produce within given limitations in resources or space, and nathantrice/RITUALS used the four-room format to create something really innovative and effective.

    MARCH 2, 2009

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