Notes from Philly

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Philadelphia Dance Project: “What We’re Made Of”

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Philadelphia Dance Projects: Series I
Performance Garage
1501 Brandywine
Feb. 26, 27, 2010

Look back to see where you’re going. Terry Fox’s idea to take thirty years of dance in this town and reconstruct on younger performers while some of the original makers are still around, is a good way to see which works do and don’t hold up. For the next three weeks, until March 20, we’ll have a chance to assess with live performances, films and talks in venues across town. The first program featured three works that might be called EIghties Redux. Otto Winshap Ranstand also performed the choreography for his 2009 solo; it reflected some of the anxious spirit of the 1980s zeitgeist: the body as quivering, questing machine of often unrelated parts. A good solo, well performed, but it felt longer than need be; Tim Glenn’s fascinating sound design mimicked radiators releasing steam and the occasional rumble of thunder. I would have liked this dance better had it been shorter, the pauses briefer, the episode with the pink T-shirt deleted.
Ishamel Houston-Jones’s Dead, from 1981 is a catalog aria performance piece. A series of rises and falls accompanys every man, woman, child and pet, the dancer has known who died. (A voiceover speaks the names.) It works. It is clever with wit and pathos. WIlliam Robinson performed Saturday. He used his own list.
It’s pretty hard to escape the Eighties – the Me Decade. Michael Biello’s He and He and What We’re Made Of both suffer from self-absorption and sentiment.
He and He celebrates gay marriage. A couple saying vows would have held my interest longer if their costumes hadn’t been so silly (children’s pjs with the flaps and feet); if their relationship had held some surprises, some swerve instead of becoming sticky- sweet. The props: blow-up Dalmations were not provocative; the AIDS epidemic was handled hysterically rather than tragically. The dance is a cuddle rather than a serious look at a relationship. The sorrow: John Luna and Scott McPheeters are fine, expressive dancers. Dan Martin at the piano also sang, which was more of a distraction than an enhancement: Martin’s projection was so emphatic. Anthony Pirollo played cello, nicely.
Biello’s “What We are Made of” promises more but it too takes a wrong turn into sentimentality. A quartet of men (in the buff) move slowly, the feeling is always stasis. They turn, they look at each other, they hold lighted boxes, which we ultimately learn are memorabilia from their childhood. Again, there is movement but insufficient dancing. Art is destroyed by cliche. If some of these works can be reconstructed, more power to them. This dance needs better. At least three more dance programs coming up from the Philadelphia Dance Project.

(To whom:I find the printed programs wordy and confusing…) Next up: Temple’s Conwell Dance Theater, but also events at SCUBA and International House. Check your listings.

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Written by Lesley Valdes

March 1, 2010 at 3:15 am

Posted in 1, Dance

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