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Something Completely Different


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Paul Cipponeri, Jenny Eakes, Jenna Hunt, Dardi McGinley, Scott Putman, Tatiana Sanchez

at the Dance Center of Columbia College, June 17 and 18

When one of the dancers in Mordine & Company gave me a flier for this concert, she said the company had canceled its June concert for financial reasons, but had replaced it with a free concert of dances by the company members. "It will be more athletic than Shirley's work," she added. I expected a concert where trained young bodies danced just for the pleasure of being young and strong, without the nuances Mordine's dances often have. The dances did have a lot of physicality that was often thrilling, but the dancers were not anonymous young bodies: each dancer's personality came through clearly, making the concert a group portrait.

Dardi McGinley is a physically daring dancer. A tall woman with powerful legs, she seems to love to throw herself into movement, pitting herself against its difficulty. In Venus Envy, a dance for five women, the movements that repeat--a turning stag leap, a push-up in which a dancer throws herself to the floor, her feet straight up in the air, balances for a moment on her hands, then pushes herself back onto her feet--require a dancer's sense of center and an athlete's daring. But the signature movement in the dance is a reclining Venus pose--a woman lying on her side, propped up on her elbow, her head dropped to the side and her hair dangling. The dance doesn't tell a story, but seems to describe a new femininity common in young women today that has many "masculine" characteristics: risk taking, aggression, and strength.

McGinley's solo Davy Jones' Locker also has juicy movement, but fails because it doesn't develop its themes well. The dance, which includes movement that imitates scuttling crabs, is apparently about life at the bottom of the sea, but no ideas are carried through to interesting conclusions.

Scott Putman uses many of the same movements McGinley does--including the push-up and stag leaps--but achieves a different emotional quality. If McGinley celebrates independence, Putman cares about relating. His quartet for four men, Venation, emphasizes upright backs and clear shapes in the arms, which he says remind him of the veins of a leaf. The dance has many astonishing lifts--Krenly Guzman leaps into a sitting position in Putman's arms, then Putman carries him across the stage. The clean choreography of repeating sequences and canons makes the dance seem formal, even though the dancers are always relating to each other spatially. This contrast comes to seem sad, because although the men work closely together, the formality of their relationships seems to keep them from feeling happiness in the connections.

In Putman's solo Informed by '94 he's dressed in only a tie and a towel that's tied around his waist. He signals anxiety at every turn--twitching his shoulders, hitting himself in the head with his hand, pulling up the towel to look at his genitals as if surprised by what he finds there. The dance seems to be a journal where he records his fears, and the strong formal structure keeps it from collapsing into meaningless movement, unlike McGinley's solo.

As McGinley and Putman look inside themselves, exploring the nature of their own sexuality, Paul Cipponeri and Tatiana Sanchez look outward, in dances that embody the opposite poles of tradition and innovation. Cipponeri's duet with Jenna Hunt, Wide Asleep, has many elements of Giordano jazz dance. It has a simple plot: two lovers sleep, wake, dance, couple, and fall back to sleep. The dancing is dazzling and pyrotechnic; Hunt's astonishing extensions, Cipponeri's sudden leap onstage, and their pas de deux filled with lifts and throws took my breath away. But, as with many Giordano dances, I felt empty at the end because nothing emotionally satisfying had happened. The dance starts in one place, erupts, but returns to the same place.

Sanchez's Chrysalis Frieze starts in an outlandish place, plays around a little, and ends in a not much different place--but the starting place is a wonderful place. The stars of the dance are four "long string sculptures" created by Bill Close of the performance group Mass: 20-foot metal sculptures that have brass wires strung along their length; running a hand along the wires gives a moaning or whining sound. The sculptures are arrayed on each side of Bill Wallace's huge drum, and Close, Wallace, and members of the Jellyeye percussion group play the sculptures and drums while Sanchez and Julie Hopkins dance around and through the sculptures.

The last dance on the program, Syrup Dishes, choreographed jointly by the dancers to a bubbling percussive score by Mickey Hart, is a party. The dancers just dance flat out to the music, making little "oh" and "ah" sounds when inspired. Stunning dancing is tossed off as if it were the easiest thing in the world. The best joke is when Cipponeri leaps from side stage into McGinley's arms and she treats him with the slight arrogance with which many male dancers treat the female dancers they catch. The dance ends with a daisy chain of catching--the biggest dancer catches the next biggest, who then catches the next biggest. Sex doesn't matter, only size and skill.

The concert's group portrait shows young dancers concerned with things that concern most young adults--how to be a man or a woman, whether to be conservative or liberal. But they're not so concerned that they forget to party.

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