Tom Strini
Danceworks’ Art to Art

Eurekas and Uh-ohs in the DanceLab

By - Aug 20th, 2011 12:08 am
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email
steven-moses-art-to-art

Steven Moses. Matt Haas photo for Danceworks.

In Danceworks’ annual summer Art to Art concerts, mostly younger choreographers pair up with artists from other disciplines. Sometimes, these pairings yield fabulous results. Sometimes.

In this year’s Art to Art, which opened Friday (Aug. 19), dancer-choreographer Steven Moses worked with writer Justin Spaller.  Spaller dreamed up Fata Morgana, a surreal tale of a man who awakens sweat-soaked and parched. The faucets yield no water. Dry, sun-baked, nearly deserted streets offer no relief. Finally it rains. To this little tale, in voice-over, Moses flowed like beautiful, confident penmanship, shaping and inverting and curving his body and traveling with a panther’s lithe assurance. Sometimes the dance was purely dance, sometimes it touched upon the text in mimetic flashes that gave the piece just enough literal connection to the story. This brilliantly conceived and executed work deserves life beyond Art to Art.

pikalek-eichinger-art-to-art

Joseph Pikalek and Simon Eichinger. Matt Haas photo for Danceworks.

Likewise for Simon Eichinger’s ≈seventyone≈eightyfive≈, created with flutist Joe Pikalek. Pikalek danced with enormous energy, often while playing a simple wooden flute. They opened by dancing in silence in perfect parallel, in irregular phrases that ended with slaps on the floor. This is a manly dance; these guys move like jocks. Naturally, competition flared up. The parallel dancing morphed  into canon and the canons became chases. Pikalek’s flute became a talisman of power and cast a spell over Eichinger. It caused him to dance like a charmed cobra. A snap of the fingers changed the lighting and broke the spell, and a virtuoso sort of wrestling match over control of the flute ensued. Be sure to listen closely for the clever, sotto voce wisecracks. On top of everything else, these talented gentlemen are funny.

Molly Mingey could have called her Why Not Brunch? the Fantasy Revenge of the Waitress.  The piece, to music by collaborators Brad Gorand and Jas McHugh, is more mime burlesque than dance. We see our waitress (Annette Grefig) glumly waiting for the appointed hour to don her black uniform and apron. She stands clad in a terry robe — she smokes, checks her watch — for a good long time. Finally, she exits, returns dressed and awaits her customers as if awaiting execution. Chloe Gray, Molly Messplay-Krewal, Bridgett Tegen, Nikka Pamenter and Andrew Zanoni arrive, in garish outfits suited to their boorish behavior. Grefig suffers them with deadly and utterly bland contempt. Perfect.

Choreographer Liz Sexe and percussionist Timothy Russell had a good idea in You Can Please Everyone. They show a video of Russell awkwardly negotiating some moves distantly related to break dancing. Then Russell blasts off on a hot trap set solo and Sexe bursts onto the scene. I think the intention was to contrast the awkward dancing on the video with kick-ass live dancing and drumming. But Sexe couldn’t deliver the energy and virtuosity required to seal the deal.

brunch-art-to-art

An annoyed waitress and annoying diners in “Why Not Brunch?” Matt Haas photo for Danceworks.

Four women emerge from an opening in a network of branches (by artist Mary Adamson) at the outset of Rapture, by choreographers Andrew Zanoni and Megan Zintek. With their streaky makeup, wild manes and gauzy earth-tone tops, they give off an Amazon vibe (muted somewhat by the denim short-shorts). They knelt and formed a diamond and did some ceremonial arm waving-and-back bending. When Scott Roush’s music got more nervous, they twitched, jerked and contracted. That contrasted sharply with some sinuous unfolding into hyper-extended poses, held for a second or two before transition into the next. (Such amplitude! Nice going Megan Burki, Annette Grefig, Molly Mingey and Bridget Tegen.) The problem was, the material did not develop in any comprehensible way. Twitch, extend, twitch, extend, twitch, extend, stop.

Dances should accumulate meaning and structure as they unfold. Rapture did not and neither did Another Day Lost, by Steven Michael LaFond, with contributions from dancers Madeleine Schoch, Jessie Mae Scibek and Kayla Schroepfer. They danced in artificial moonlight to moony, sad love songs sung live by songwriter Aimee Leigh Wetenkamp. The dancers wore wafty baby-doll gowns. The dancers, too, mostly wafted about, but occasionally sank to the floor to show the sadness of life. Sigh. All in all, pretty adolescent. But that’s how they learn, right?

Art to Art runs again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20-21. Tickets are $15, $20 for reserved seating and $10 for students and seniors, at Danceworks’ website.

0 thoughts on “Danceworks’ Art to Art: Eurekas and Uh-ohs in the DanceLab”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for coming Tom! Annette Grefig was the waitress.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Liz. Edited the piece to reflect this knowledge.– Strini

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *