The Sharir Dance Company of Austin, Texas, paid the intelligence of Utahns the supreme compliment Saturday night. They presented a program of three works without a hint of program notes or explanation, beyond a certain amount of narration, which in all but one case only made their meaning more obscure.
Thanks for the compliment, Sharir, but a little more orientation into a style that's new to us and by no means self-explanatory would have been welcome.I know I am committing the "no-no" of the modern dance world by asking the forbidden question, "What does it all mean?" But if a work has narration, then by its nature it assumes a certain obligation to interpret that narration, unless it is intended to be only one additional strand in a stream of consciousness.
The latter seemed to be the intent of Yakov Sharir's "My White Cow," whose poem, read by Kathryn Mishell (who also played the descriptive synthesizer score) seemed to be celebrating some imaginary creature of evocative charms and dreamlike perfection - a symbol first female, then male, then female, whose gymnastics with two men seemed to have little to do with what was being read.
The dance was interesting, especially when willowy soloist Andrea Beckham cast a certain sinuous spell - but certainly not of the bovine variety. There is perhaps something philosophical about white cows that I was missing.
Most successful was "Tlon," where everything worked together to create the effect of a mythic kingdom inhabited by mysterious creatures, in some archaic time and place. Choreography by Jose Luis Bustamante and text by Jorge Luis Borges were well-coordinated in the sort of synthesis of dance and philosophy that this company seems to enjoy.
The dancers moved seamlessly through an underwater habitat, appearing to glide, slide or float in slow motion. They inhabited an orderly cosmos ruled by law, with geometric angularity that sometimes suggested automatons. Lighting and projections heightened the effect of Far Eastern serenity. Sharir's company moves well, with good technical command and strong intention.
"Uomo nella Luna" by Sharir, with narration in Spanish, capitalized upon the variety of sizes in the company, from very tall to tiny, in a vigorous movement piece with striking use of space at first, but one of those cliche windups where everyone lines up facing front and yanks each other around.
Narration is a decidedly tricky element to incorporate into dance. Movement alone, if done well, usually conveys its own message and leaves the viewer free to make his own associations.
Repertory Dance Theatre contributed a couple of strong choreographies to this joint concert.
From RDT came "Don't Look Back" by Monica Levy. This piece brings Bach into the 20th century, using the lyricism and order of his concerto for two violins to underpin a joyous, free-wheeling romp that suggests a sunlit day in the open air. The nine dancers flowed through in pleasing combinations - full ensemble, women alone, men alone, by twos and threes. The slow movement was an especially lucid and graceful choreography, fluently danced.
Charles Moulton's "Nine-Person Precision Ball Passing" has become duck soup enough for the company that they can swing it a little as they go through their outrageously intricate exchanges. It's a crowd pleaser, and never a ball landed on the floor in Saturday's stellar display.