June 18, 2000
International House, May 24-25
In the past few years Dancefusion has set itself apart from most small Philadelphia modern companies by its ambition. Artistic Director Gwendolyn Bye has put us all in her debt by taking it upon herself to reconstruct and re-present the work of a number of eminent modern choreographers, such as Anna Soklow, Pauline Koner and especially Mary Anthony, of whose company she was a member. The nucleus of the company, the excellent Suellen Haag and Joseph Cicala, has been augmented by her association with the witty, inventive and always-busy Stephen Welsh.
That said, Im afraid that Working, an evening of new work by several choreographers, was not up to the companys usual standard. The compact program was competently performed, as always, but choreographically there was nothing special: Indeed, occasional moments of brilliance were more than balanced by a few lapses.
We began with Ms. Byes exemplary presentation of the first of the three movements of Mary Anthonys Songs (1956), set to Debussy. Mary Anthony is regularly described by dance historians as primarily a lyric choreographer, but this brief extract served to demonstrate that an earlier generations lyricism seems to us little more than earnestness. Songs re-created for us the dance vocabulary of the heroic generation of Graham, Holm and Soklow, in which the very act of the dancers expressing something deeply felt in a non-balletic way was (supposed to be) enough to move the audience. Lyricism in this more ironic and less elitist time looks and feels very different.
The premiere of Susan Deutschs Round and About, to original music by Jim Hamilton, was affecting and effective. Cicala and Welshs Two upon a Mattress had its moments, but they were too infrequent to sustain its length. A one-joke skit that depended entirely for its humor on the sight of the hairy dancers in drag, "The Princess and the Pea" could most easily be jettisoned in its entirety; the other parts need tightening.
Cicalas Glass Marbles (1990) was an overly literal rendering, complete with real marbles, of an excerpt from the Jane Martin play Talking With, which describes the descent into dementia of the authors mother as she "lost her marbles"; Suellen Haags new Perhaps was ponderous and declamatory; and Jim Mays Little Red was an unfunny junior high school dirty joke.