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Hope Stone Dance Company

By Nancy Wozny

Hope Stone Dance Company
Cullen Stage, Wortham Center
Houston, TX
October 21–23, 2010
Reviewed by Nancy Wozny

 

A scene from Weiner's Village of Waltz. Photo by Simon Gentry, courtey Hope Stone.


Jane Weiner's 2009 Village of Waltz is like a 500-page book: It's one long haul, but when you finally finish, you're savoring every word. Not a piece for the impatient, Village takes its time getting started. A long opening sequence has the entire cast tying imaginary shoelaces, flicking lint off their shoulders, adjusting their black suit jackets, and performing other mundane acts. Finally, they start walking back and forth, though not in any particularly interesting way. Amidst this tedium exists a subtle tease, as if saying, “stay with me.” And we do as the piece unfolds in glorious layers of lush solos, duets and whimsical ensemble antics.


Weiner's vocabulary contains enough flourishes to keep the eye excited. Little brushes of the hand against the air take a familiar movement somewhere else. Throughout, there's a palpable joy, or a conjuring of joy as if in remembrance of a better time long forgotten.


Although there isn't a single word of text in Weiner's dance, it feels very much like a story half recollected. The entire dance could in fact be one person's memory. Lucidity comes and goes. This is the slippery world of dreams, rich with non-linear trajectories and scraps of narratives. One section features the soprano Ana Trevino-Godfrey as she sings to a gaggle of kids in a makeshift living room. It's a little goofy. But you can just feel someone saying, “Remember the time Aunt Mabel chased us around the house with a barrel of socks?”


Weiner has gathered some of Houston's finest dancers in her troupe, Hope Stone Dance Company. Andrea Dawn Shelley and Spencer Gavin Hering's chemistry made for a touching duet. Lindsey McGill managed to keep our attention in an extended solo. Candace Rattliff and Courtney Jones give Weiner's movements a delicious precision. The unity among the dancers suggests they really are denizens of the same place, dream, or family. They seem to know each other, lending emotional substance to otherwise abstract movement.


Live music by Peter Jones helped to give the piece its punch. David Graeve's set pieces added a touch of nostalgia: period dresses descending from the ceiling, family portraits hanging in mid-air, a couch and wing chair here and there. Lighting designer Roma Flowers (with Jeremy Choate) created an ethereal atmosphere, taking the dance in and out of focus, through fog, white light, and careful isolation of key moments.


Village of Waltz ends on a spectacular note, all cleverly set up. The wings and backdrops slowly disappear, transforming the theater into the local community center, while a gigantic net of lights descends, something you might see in an outdoor public dance event circa 1940. The dancers waltz under the glittery lights as the voice of the invisible storyteller arrives at a final moment of clarity. It's one stunning “all coming back to me” moment.