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  •  REVIEW: ALEXANDRA BELLER: WAR AND OTHER STORIES

    other stories in Alexandra Beller: War and other stories
    Photo by Florence Baratay
    other stories

    Master of Clarity

    Alexandra Beller navigates tricky ground

    By QUINN BATSON
    Offoffoff.com

    Alexandra Beller has a beautiful mind; she is a master at taking conflicted situations and turning them into art that speaks clearly.

      
    ALEXANDRA BELLER: WAR AND OTHER STORIES
    Choreography by: Alexandra Beller and company.
    Dancers: Alexandra Beller, Justin Donham, Ori Flomin (Saturday), Toni Melaas, Edward Rice, Jenna Riegel, Milvia Pacheco Salvatierra.
    Sound design by: Alexandra Beller and Robert Poss.
    Costumes by: Karen Young.
    Lighting design by: Amanda K. Ringger.
    scenic consultant/engineer: Brian Ireland (piece).
     SCHEDULE
    DNA
    February 25-28, 2010

    egg, her piece about newmommyhood, is an excellent entry point to the evening, showing trademark Beller moments of tension, humor and emotional clarity. Her opening solo, to a soundtrack of dinosaur sounds and "Mighty Mommy" narration, is lovely and hilarious and could almost stand alone, but the fun is broken as her real egg falls and breaks on the stage. From the mild comedic tension of balancing an egg on various body parts and safekeeping it in her mouth, the piece quickly gets hectic as an imperatively shouted "EGG!" signals the first of multiple incoming eggs of responsibility. As the eggs mount and begin to overwhelm her, an angry man begins to demand answers as he barks mathematical breastfeeding number equations at Beller, growing increasingly cross as she processes his inquisitions with more and more difficulty. Meanwhile, her onstage dance partner is blithely unconcerned with her plight and a bit huffy as they rehearse a new movement sequence in interrupted segments. If that weren't already enough plates in the air, other helpless dancers are calling "falling" as they teeter and threaten to crash to the ground without her intervention. Beller's requisite freakout finally restores some order to the scene and gains her temporary reprieve from the craziness, a nice way to clear the air and end the piece.

    piece is a clever synonym and title for her illustration of the story and situation of Palestine/Israel. So many different layers of emotions are covered through various uncovering devices: a beautiful black and white film of Beller carrying her young child, walking anxiously and alone along fencing and walls that could easily refer to camps in WWII or barriers in the Middle East; moveable cyclone fencing that slowly reconfigures the stage; a director who seems oblivious to the tension as one actor (Beller/Israeli) does largely as she likes while the other (Jenna Riegel/Arab) grudgingly obeys; a talkshow with a similarly oblivious host and both guests talking simultaneously, answering the same question in tellingly different but parallel ways; a word association game that shows the two contestants see nothing but one core thing the same way. What sounds like a lot feels quite natural as the piece flows; it is remarkable how much historical and emotional information Beller is able to convey in seamless and unobtrusive ways. The end is beautiful, and quite sad, with the dimmest glimmer of hope flickering as the light falls away to darkness on a truly dark but wholly possible scenario.

    other stories leaves more to the imagination, as several dancers tell stories of love, betrayal and other issues in snippets or Spanish. A slightly offstage, half-opaque tent is a place of movement storytelling, as a guest dancer learns improvisational phrases from others to "retell" at the end of the piece. Clarity here comes mainly from movement, clean and sharp but unhurried. Live sound design with music and voices recorded in performance works quite well to give the feeling of stories being passed along and filtered as time passes. It also reminds that each person's stories are both personal and universal, as we hear things in each that could fit our own scenarios, even without understanding all the words. Both the soundscape and the lighting give the piece a dream element as well, as words and movement come in and out of focus. It is a pleasant ending to a full show.

    MARCH 2, 2010
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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