©2005, Eva Yaa Asantewaa http://home.mindspring.com/~magickal1
The Wendy Osserman Dance Company presented by Theater For The New City, NYC 4/21-24/05
Wendy Osserman--wiry, heartful, still dancing at the helm of a group of youngsters--is a direct link to great masters of American dance history: Martha Graham, José Limón, Louis Horst, Anna Sokolowshe has studied with them all and more. Describing the collaborative process she used in the making of SPLITher new, eleven- part suiteOsserman invokes Surrealist Max Ernsts decalcomania, a technique that involved pressing a painted surface against a fresh canvas to create novel patterns. At times
I offered a painted surface to the dancers, the choreographer writes in her program notes. At times I received theirs.
Audience members were still taking seats when dancers entered a rectangle of tiny lights and launched into a preamble unannounced in our programs. Near Eastern music played, and the dancers comfortable moves, possibly improvised, didnt look quite like warm-ups. (As people arrived in the theater, you could see Am-I-late? thought bubbles forming over their heads.) After two controlling male dancers in suits and ties carted their female colleagues offstage, it appeared that the show might actually begin. Surely it would, since a perky young woman stepped out to deliver, we thought, the customary welcome. But she spoke in Japanese, gesturing like a flight attendant indicating exits, while we were left to ponder the wisdom of switching off our phones.
Following this offbeat prelude, SPLIT settled into far more conventional territory. Patrick Welsh and Tim Wilson, still in their suits and ties, lightly romped like clowns ("Wine or Vinegar"). A quartet of women slowly advanced into the rectangle, stretching, curling, twisting, spiralling, and later brushing their arms as if trying to cleanse themselves of something noxious ("Dust"). One sections title, "Dont Touch," guaranteed that wed focus on how the dancers at first interacted without touching and how they later connected with touches that managed to be light, functional, and catalytic. "A Round" presented Lundell, Wilson, and Josselyn Levinson in a fractious menage à trois.
two solos stood out and their dancers, for very different reasons, distinguished themselves. Victoria Lundell, a company veteran and Ossermans assistant, has also graced the troupes of Mark Morris, David Parsons, and Aszure Barton. In "Present Tense," she maintained a constant, electric focus as she struggled against invisible forces. Alternately crumbly and strong, she looked as if she were trapped in a safari gone wrong; Jim Whitneys strange music sounded like an experience of being double-teamed by bees and mosquitos while an angry elephantand maybe a lion, toogains on you.
"Rant/Chant/Cant," the better of two solos danced by Osserman, seemed, if not improvised, choreographed just yesterday. Twirling in a fascinating, swirly dress in various shades of grey, she began to ramble on about Bushs plunging approval rating and let her subterranean feelings burn through her determination to be peaceful. It was unsettling to watch Osserman turn into the barking "dog of war," declaring herself the three-headed Cerberus, and even more disturbing to hear her say, "Its better to be scary than scared," because you know thats the very reason were all in a world of trouble. She downshifted into a remembrance of her flamenco classes, arching her arms above and around her like bare branches. Then, as she continued to curl her arms and hands with quiet pride, she told the story of two young American women. You may have read about them just a week or so ago on the New York Times front page. Both excelled at basketball in college. Both lost limbs in Iraq. Closing her solo, Osserman suddenly pleaded that the stage lights not be turned down so fast: "Because I want to cry. It sucks. Its not right. Im doing this because I still have arms. Its all I can do..."
"Rant/Chant/Cant" came late in the suite--the ninth inningbut better late than never. It was ragged and real and risked turning us off. It was a woman right there, and she was making sense.