Dance Alloy Theater's Fragile
The New Hazlett Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
April 13-16, 2007
Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Pictured: Dance Alloy Theater
Photographer: Frank Walsh
Courtesy: Dance Alloy Theater

Pittsburgh’s Dance Alloy Theater has presented a number of memorable dance works in its 31-year history. Perhaps none has been more powerful and moving as Donald Byrd’s No Consolation, which premiered in April as part of DAT’s riveting program “Fragile.”

The first chapter in a multi-part national project concerning human stories cut short, Bryd’s No Consolation was a graphic account of humans processing grief.

Wooden folding chairs sat arranged around three sides of an otherwise bare stage. Five dancers (three women, two men) one after another walked to the front of the stage and began muttering, in whispered tone, accounts of personal tragedy. Adopting anguished and despondent facial expressions, the dancers began what would be a gut-wrenching insight into the disintegration of will. Dancing to traditional Irish music, the ensemble let loose an outpouring of Irish step dance-influenced movement that was taken to violent and exhaustive extremes. Some collapsed to the floor, others slumped into another’s embrace or receded into a hunched position on a chair. Masterfully crafted, and danced with uncompromising passion by DAT’s dancers, the work captured the very essence of shattered lives. Particularly convincing was the performance of Stephanie Dumaine, whose inconsolable character fully inhabited her as she pushed away efforts by partner Michael Walsh to comfort her. She leveled the brunt of her blame and guilt for the loss of their child in pounding fists and a malicious slap to Walsh’s face.

Preceding Byrd’s work was Susan Marshall’s signature duet Arms (1984). Set to a tension-filled original score by Luis Resto, dancers Scott Lowe and Maribeth Maxa tightly bonded to each other. Hands and arms curled around the napes of necks and cradled head and cheeks. Marshall’s choreography for Arms varied sharply between the soft giving in of flesh and soul and the forceful lashing out of emotional hunger and disdain.

“Fragile” closed with DAT artistic director Beth Corning’s Flight, a lively migration of undulating modern dance movement meant to suggest birds on the wing. Costumed in rumpled white linen with long trains of fabric, DAT’s five dancers looked to be challenging the bonds of gravity as they swept over and leapt off of two wooden ramps. At times some paused to teeter at ramp’s edge or, in the case of dancer Adrienne Misko, to cling precariously to the top of a ramp turned upright, exemplifying life’s tenuous nature born out in all of “Fragile’s” dance works.

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