Austrodance Festival 2006

October 31, 2006

Beyond the Waltz: Austrodance Festival 2006
October 31-November 8, 2006

Greenberg Theatre, American University, and other venues, Washington, DC

Reviewed by Lisa Traiger

Dana Tai Soon Burgess and Tati Valle-Riestra in Burgess� Images From the Embers

Photo by Mary Noble Ours, courtesy Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company

There’s more to Austrian dance than a 3/4-time waltz. Much more, as this festival celebrating Austrian dancemakers, both current and past, proved. Five contemporary Austrian choreographers were joined by two Washington, DC, stalwarts in a festival sponsored by the Austrian Embassy.

The nine-day festival began by looking back and forward in an evening titled “Hanna Berger: Retouchings.” Viennese-born Berger (1910–1962) was a first-generation modern expressionist whose career was interrupted when the Nazis interned her in a concentration camp. The concert, curated by critic/historian Andrea Amort, proved enigmatic, never describing how Berger danced, what her works looked like, and what her descendants gleaned from her influence.

In Willi Dorner’s N.N., a video of Berger was accompanied by one-time Berger dancer Ottilie Mitterhuber’s live narration. Swaying, shifting, and speaking in German, she recalled her mentor’s influence in an evocative commentary that touched on aging and ephemerality. Dancer Martina Haager shaped Manfred Aichinger’s Fragile: Variations on a Choreographic Theme by Hanna Berger using circular and spiral paths that seemed familiar after watching N.N.

Dorner also presented two compact works that parsed the relationship between language and movement. The Vienna-based choreographer began making dances in the 1980s, after studying with Erick Hawkins and dancing with Iréne Hultman, Nina Martin, and Stephen Petronio. His 5-year-old threeseconds took a playful approach to conceptualism, using Heinz Ditsch’s multilingual electronic score and videography by Dorner, Lotte Schreiber, and Norbert Pfaffenbichler. Three animated dancers—Satu Herrala, Anthony Missen, and Matthew Smith—spouted angular gestures in semaphoric fashion, suggesting a grammar of movement to be read and analyzed. A mere blip after the discursive threeseconds, Dorner’s no credits consigned his dancers to Ms. Pacman–like shuffling and bobbling, like animatronic figures. Adriana Cubides and Smith squiggled, dashed, and seemed to jot words in space with elbows or body parts, as if they were pixilated icons making amusing parries before a sudden game-over ending overtook them.