Now Dance plus Then Dance: Morris, Rainier, Cohen

Baryshnikov can etch the smallest movement in your memory, and so can Tina Fehlandt, as she showed last night, Friday, November 21, when she danced ‘Peccadillos,’ a Mark Morris solo that has been danced by the famous Russian and by no woman, until now. It opened a program called “Now Dance,” choreography and/or performances by faculty and guests at the Hagan Dance Studio on the Princeton University campus and repeats tonight. The performance is sold out, but first-comers can usually snag an uncollected ticket.

Fehlandt, who danced with Morris’ company for 20 years, was accompanied on the requisite toy piano by music of Erik Satie, played sensitively by a scrunched-up David Tenney. From toy soldier-sharp angles, to sweeping-open circles, to breathfilled swings, to angst-filled clutches, she and Tenney made little jewels out of each variation.

Rebecca Lazier, the acting department chair, brought a four-person company for two works, this year’s ‘Terminal,’ with Ravel’s Bolero-based music by Gregory Spears, and excerpts from an in progress work, “Coming Together,” with a voice and sound score by Frederick Rzewski, referring to the massacre at Attica state prison. I found the prison one more compelling. Though in its current version it lacks a discernable climax, the coupling of the four dancers had a compelling ebb and flow. Jennifer Lafferty, Rommel, Salveron, and Storme Sundberg are all beautiful dancers, but Emily Stone – very tall, she towers over the three – was especially wonderful to watch.

Todd Allen and Ying-ying Shiau’s excerpt from Zvi Gotheiner’s ‘Interiors’ was a tour de force of elasticity. Confined to a chair, they moved back and forth, in and out, over and under, coming apart and returning together in an endless number of ways, just gorgeous dancing.

Jason Herbert was impressive as a young boxer in a work by Dyane Harvey-Salaam, against a background of Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali photos and words, a collage of interviews, and music from a film. It was witty, poignant, and inventive, and it is perfect for touring to schools and youth programs.

Patricia Hoffbauer took a 1962 Yvonne Rainer piece, ‘Three Seascapes,’ out of mothballs. I tried to call up that Judson Church period, when this dance was a protest, and I could imagine just how revolutionary it was. First she jogged around with her hands stuffed in her raincoat pockets, exuding determined energy in complicated floor patterns. Then a too-strong chorus of coughers gathered at a mike while she danced repeated phrases of exhaustion and sickness. In Rainier’s version of Fokine’s ‘Dying Swan,’ she used tulle to have a tantrum. Audience members without any historical context laughed out loud. It did look funny, out of context. Just a little program note, just a little verbal introduction, would have clued them in and helped them to appreciate it.

Ze’eva Cohen’s ‘Cloud Song’ was a more effective throwback to the past. Nicely danced by Elizabeth Schwall, a Princeton senior and the only student dancer on the program, it ended with a film of the young Ze’eva. Beautiful.

I’m going to post this right now, without much proofing, without adding all that I might like to include, on the odd chance that someone may see it and try to get to the program tonight. It’s been years since I wrote dance reviews on a regular basis, and it’s really hard to make myself do it again. If I labor over them, I’ll never get around to them. So – what you see is what you get. Though I may add some second thoughts later.

I started this Friday night and finished it Saturday morning. Now I’m off to the electronic recycling day, which comes only six times a year, with my car full of old technology – used hard drives, discarded phones, yards of wire. Dance may be evanescent. Old dances may be hard to reproduce. But it’s certainly more useful and important to the world than old technology.

PS. Anybody who sees errors, please tell me. Anybody with a different or similar opinion, please comment.

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