College Dance Theatre

March 18, 2000

Dancing Through Temporal Cavern

Collage Dance Theatre

Subway Terminal Building

Los Angeles, California

March 18?April 9, 2000

Reviewed by Donna Perlmutter

Heidi Duckler arguably has the savvy to succeed in anything, but Collage, her performance-art/site-specific company, happens to be the engine she powers. Its latest project, subVersions, showed her as someone who knows how to make lemonade when presented with old lemons. A creator who treasures found objects, found talent and found places, Duckler jumped at the chance to help herself and, at the same time, a wealthy patron who owns the Subway Terminal building at Fourth and Hill Streets, thereby gaining high visibility for both. And for Los Angeles, a city that needs to cherish its precious few historic landmarks, the choreographer has even struck a considerable victory for civic heritage.

Until now the 1925 edifice languished, abandoned since its days as a center for the now-forgotten Hollywood Subway. With the restoration of the marble lobby and Collage?s continuing weekend performances of this ambitious event, the place came alive again.

which is a sort of Tony ?n? Tina?s Wedding à la performance art and full regalia including original music, started out with fervent participation: Audience members were treated to face-painting by the train conductor, who then guided the crowd from one dark tunnel to another. To start, wine was offered. At the first stop the audience landed before a vast empty space with Corinthian columns around which ghostly figures in long skirts glided on roller skates, while others sat at sewing machines?all of it accompanied by blissful music from stringed instruments.

The journey through its many other musty, desolated locales continued to the event?s most imaginative episode: here the spectral tulle of a ballet skirt poked from an aluminum duct; at the next location the full-blown, toe-shoed dancer emerged from a shopping cart. She leapt out and chaînéed across the dank cement floor, chased by a homeless lover, as B.J. Krivanek?s changing graffiti from another life was projected on a banner. It was all so alluringly mysterious.

But the material from subsequent other voices, other rooms, fell far short of this beginning. A couple?s food fight, accompanied by a serious tenor, was so much silliness. Ditto a milk-and-cookies comedy stint led by a nurse in what looked like a hospital lounge (Part of the cavern was at one time a hospital.) Nor did the rope-climbing finale in a rubble-ridden subterranean railcar terminal look terribly expert. But no one left the dark caverns without a sense of having trod through an abandoned bit of history.