Magazine article Dance Magazine

American Dance Festival '99

Magazine article Dance Magazine

American Dance Festival '99

Article excerpt

AMERICAN DANCE FESTIVAL '99 THE AFRICAN AMERICAN DANCE ENSEMBLE REYNOLDS INDUSTRIES THEATER JUNE 14-16, 1999 MARTHA CLARKE PAGE AUDITORIUM JUNE 17-19, 1999 DUKE UNIVERSITY, DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA

Two opening attractions I took in attest that this year's American Dance Festival is diverse in styles, though conservative in aesthetic. Both Chuck Davis's African American Dance Ensemble and a new theater-dance piece by Martha Clarke are highly charged--with broad emotion and sexual tension, respectively.

Davis has long been the Pied Piper of African dance, educating us about its customs, and enthralling audiences with his robust, good-natured presence. Who else could convince an audience of four hundred strangers to hug each other? His company of energetic dancers works hard to win us with choreography that recalls African American themes already thoroughly explored by Alvin Ailey, Ulysses Dove, and others. They succeed in Ex3=Encouragement! Empowerment! Excellence (Balante), Davis's deftly choreographed salute to the power of African ritual. Then they take a stylistic stretch into postmodernism with a world premiere by New York downtowner David Dorfman. Unfortunately, his Over Home lacks choreographic focus and, at thirty minutes plus, it needs editing.

Clarke's Vers la flamme turns five Chekhov short stories into a framework on which to paint surreal narratives about love and lust. Her cast of seasoned dance-actors turns human emotions into movement images that stab your heart one minute and tickle your funny bone the next.

Onstage, virtuoso Christopher O'Riley swathes the action in astonishingly pungent renderings of piano etudes and preludes by Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninoff. The skewed walls of designer Michael Yeargan's set are painted, a la Magritte, with fluffy clouds in an azure sky, which makes the space at once finite and infinite. …

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