ADF – International Choreographers Commissioning Program

July 18, 2005

American Dance Festival
International Choreographers Commissioning Program

American Dance Festival

Reynolds Industries Theater, Duke University, Durham, NC

July 18, 2005

Reviewed by Karen Hildebrand


The International Choreographers Commissioning Project brings emerging choreographers (this year the Dutch Anouk van Dijk, Durham native and Juilliard grad Charlotte Griffin, and Martinus Miroto of Jakarta, Indonesia) from around the world to create new work on students during ADF’s six-week summer program. Van Dijk’s Derivatives, though technically not a world premiere—it’s a collage of previous dances reworked for this occasion—is the piece to remember.

Billed as world premieres, Griffin’s and Miroto’s pieces are more at the level of a student recital. Griffin’s KRS is a series of scenes that lack a unifying raison d’etre. A quartet of two men and two women has potential, but heavy red capes and skirts overpower the dancers’ movement. Miroto’s Mask is an engaging example of traditional Javanese dance. The students don’t completely embody the Javanese hands and arms, but their use of masks and hand and foot puppets is entertaining as a folkloric showcase.

In Derivatives, the movement is anything but what its title suggests. True, it begins with a phrase that will be repeated again and again, but the dancer moves in a fresh and captivating way. Her reedy limbs corkscrew around her torso, an arm reaching up from behind, the right shoulder leading into a complex twist that travels through her body, then whips her leg into a sharp turn. A succession of soloists, duos, and trios repeat the phrase—first languidly, then like popcorn kernels exploding. The 14 dancers vary the dynamic and timing to a collage of sounds, voices, and stringed instruments by Robert van Heumen and Tuxedomoon.

Van Dijk gives us a world of alienation and violence. The dancers look emaciated. They run. They bounce, drop, and fall audibly. They lean impossibly far off balance. One snaps his fingers at another, and she falls to the floor as if shot. There is no partnering until deep into the piece, when the original phrase morphs into a duet. Instead of a whipping leg, a partner is flung laterally. Though the dancers’ isolation has ended, the movement remains violent: A girl spins frenetically; her partner throws her.

The students, a surprisingly cohesive ensemble, are technically agile, particularly Yi Huang of Taiwan, with his martial arts-informed athleticism. In only five weeks they have become versed in van Dijk’s movement technique, which she calls “counter-technique.” (Her theories of how to create space within the body by sending movements outward in counter-directions—an arm moves forward while the ribs go backward, for example—come from her study of Alexander Technique and from Rudolf Laban’s movement system.)

For the finale the dancers run forward, throwing up their arms, then letting them melt. Bodies slam to the floor and scoot to the rear. Another group joins them, then more dancers. Toes and hands smack the marley. Grunting and twitching yield to stillness. Derivatives is dark and dramatic. But what lingers after the curtain goes down is not so much a choreographic concept as van Dijk’s unique movement vocabulary. If this is what students can do, what does her company look like? See