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    Denisa Musilova and Savina Theodorou in Arena in Sugar Salon
    Photo by Anthony Collins
    Denisa Musilova and Savina Theodorou in "Arena"

    No Undue Haste

    Sugar Salon presents three women choreographers


    Twenty-minute pieces aren't for everyone. That's true for both choreographers and audience members. Sugar Salon at Baryshnikov Arts Center featured 4 choreographers showing one piece each, with Jane Comfort serving as mentor for Heather Olson, Deganit Shemy and Anna Sperber. Though Comfort's piece felt robust and finished and fairly quick, the other three by design or default wandered through time. The Howard Gilman performance space in this new dance venue close to the Lincoln Tunnel entrance felt at least for this event like an updated Judson Church with raked seating, concrete walls and a marley floor.

    Choreography by: Anna Sperber, Heather Olson, Jane Comfort, Deganit Shemy.
    Dancers: Anna Sperber: Charlotte Gibbons, Natalie Green, Anna Sperber
    Heather Olson: Olson, Matthew Rogers, Kimberly Young
    Jane Comfort: Jessica Anthony, Leslie Cuyjet, Rebecca Mehan, Ellen Smith
    Deganit Shemy: Robin Brown, Erika Eichelberger, Denisa Musilova, Leah Nelson, Savina Theodorou
    Costumes by: Liz Prince (Comfort).
    Lighting design by: Joe Levasseur.

    Related links: WAX | Barnard | Baryshnikov Arts Center
    Baryshnikov Arts Center
    January 7-9, 2009

    my imagination lives in the dark, but charlotte's imagination lives in the forest seems adaptable to any space because it is minimal and somewhat improvisational. Anna Sperber did an excellent job of using what this space had to offer by using available nighttime light coming through two huge windows as both backdrop and minimum light source. Sequined jackets pick up any light source, and the little flecks of red shining off the probably gold sequins came from Exit signs on the opposite wall. Heavily amplified and noteless breathing and gurgling live trumpet work by Nate Wooley made this a strange dark place. After a slowly building intro duet of steps, footshuffles and turns, sequins became mysterious stars in a clever bit at the back wall. Handheld lights are the main light source for this piece, which can be intriguing or dumb depending on the viewer's mindset. Abstracted lit slivers of skin can be intriguing, abstracted shadow handpuppets maybe or maybe not. Overall . . . imagination. . . works as an evocative and mysterious shadowplay, but glacial pacing either adds to the ambience or not, again depending.

    in the river is Heather Olson's piece. It is a slow and alternating-current river, full of odd movement and humorous reversals. Another minimal but effective soundscape (James Lo) and minimal set — this time squares of "grass" lining the river with a single apple on one — bring Judson Church to mind, as do small autistic hand gestures, much performer time spent down or watching, and, thankfully, little bits of humor, like the archer aiming at the apple-on-head being the one to take the fall. Mini-themes of archery and fencing keep this river from stagnating, bit it does feel like a sleepy summer river.

    An American Rendition is potent and fluid and makes its point smooth and sure. Dancers Jessica Anthony, Leslie Cuyjet, Rebecca Mehan and Ellen Smith give vitality to Jane Comfort's choreography. Comfort mined found text from missing persons reports to come up with a convincingly creepy interaction between a woman looking for her missing husband and a grey-suited group of bureaucrats. The text could stand alone, but good dynamic movement and choreography make this piece full. The excerpt shown here makes the full-length piece seem well worth watching.

    Arena is Deganit Shemy's contact improv battleground, fought over by Robin Brown, Erika Eichelberger, Denisa Musilova, Leah Nelson and Savina Theodorou. This is a full-contact piece, regulated by lines and timers (or metronomes, in a nice twist) but pretty much no-holds-barred inside the arena. There is recurring interaction between two adversaries or friends wearing strange gasmask-looking things over their mouth and nose that just goes by enigmatically, perhaps referring to present or future war or similar pollution. Otherwise there is mainly controlled mayhem, in tag teams or mano a mano, by dancers in skimpy athletic outfits and kneepads. Numerous blackouts confuse the audience into anticipating and then expecting an ending, so by the time the end arrives it is pretty anticlimactic, and there is only so much contact work an audience can stay interested in, even when it is as vigorous and well-constructed as that in Arena.

    This was Sugar Salon's third annual performance series, a collaboration between Barnard College Department of Dance and Williamsburg Arts neXus (WAX) intended to mentor, commission and present the work of women choreographers.

    JANUARY 9, 2009

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