American Dance Guild Jubilation

September 10, 2012

The first night of American Dance Guild’s festival contained three really special performances, coming from three vastly different artists on the modern dance map: Elaine Summers, Harald Kreutzberg, and Dianne McIntyre. Known for honoring the elders of modern dance, ADG also includes younger choreographers in their festivals, but I am just talking about these three.

The first was Windows in the Kitchen, assembled by Elaine Summers, a pioneer of dance films (not to mention a pioneer of somatics). Her 1981 film showed Graham dancer Matt Turney (who died in 2009) making shapes against a loft window while Douglas Dunn improvised live and Jon Gibson played flute. Turney is just lovely in her movement—sensual, soft, with a sense of line and how she fit into the environment. Dunn provided elegantly quirky counterpoint without ever looking at the projecton behind him. Gibson’s mostly tranquil flute got just a little restless toward the end. Altogether they formed an intriguing if slightly melancholy meditation.


Jon Gibson, Matt Turney (on film), and Douglas Dunn in Elaine Summers’
Windows in the Kitchen. Photo by Klaus Lucka, Courtesy ADG.


We rarely see traces of the legendary Harald Kreutzberg, so John Pennington’s powerful rendition of the German expressionist’s Tänze vor Gott (Dance before God) was a welcome addition. In his commanding gestures, including sweeping a huge cape to conceal or reveal himself, and accusatory pointing at the audience, he struck me as a cross between Carabosse and Martha Graham in Lamentation. But this was choreographed in 1927, three years before Graham’s iconic solo. It is known that she saw him perform in those years, so she could well have been influenced by this piece. However ADG’s program notes say that both Pennington and Lew Thomas (sister of former Graham dancer Marnie Thomas) added new material to this reconstruction. So it’s hard to know which way the influence went.


John Pennington in Harald Kreutzberg’s
Dance before God.

Photo by Klaus Lucka, Courtesy ADG.

Dianne McIntyre’s Life’s Force (1979) burst onto the Ailey Citigroup stage with outsized exuberance. Ahmed Abdullah and his three musicians started the dance going, and the audience was thrilled to see/hear them. (McIntyre is known for her close collaboratioins with musicians.) Twenty dancers who had been members of her group Dance in Motion over the past 40 years skimmed or strode across the floor, each one jubilant to be there. When McIntyre entered—delicate, articulate, sweet, moving her hands in rhythm, white haired—a gush of warmth came over the audience. She held a brief dance conversation with each of her alumnae. When Jawole Willa Jo Zollar came out, knees thwacking in and out, the kinetic excitement onstage and enthusiasm offstage shot through the roof.


Dianne McIntyre’s
Life’s Force. Photo by Klaus Lucka, Courtesy ADG.


And now for the sad part: In the ADG program notes, four modern dance greats who died this year are remembered. Click on their names to see Dance Magazine’s “In Memoriam” page on each one of these beloved people: Ethel Winter, Frances Alenikoff, Remy Charlip, and Claudia Gitelman.


Dianne McIntyre with Olu Dara in 1985. Photo by Johan Elbers, Courtesy ADG.