Dance by Alan Danielson

October 5, 2006

Dance by Alan Danielson
Danspace Project, NYC

October 5-8, 2006

Reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Robert Regala and Geraldine Cardiel in Alan Danielson’s Cave

Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy Dance by Alan Danielson

In “lucid body,” an hour-long program of two premieres and a duet from repertory, Alan Danielson proved himself a choreographer of effervescent wit and charm with an oddball sensibility. Grounded in Humphrey-Limón technique, his dances supplied a resilient and, yes, lucid structure for ideas about human interaction.

Danielson and Jennifer Chin began the new duet, Foreign Relations, by dancing behind separate lines of light. Moving independently, they stretched, turned, tested balances, and explored the air around their bodies. While they danced, the voice-over text traded words between two imaginary audience members. “I hope the dancers don’t talk,” one muttered. “I hate it when dance has text.”

In real life, this rude couple would have been shushed into silence, but they went on to speculate about the dancers’ personal lives while gradually disclosing an undercurrent of trouble within their own. Meanwhile, the dancers came together, Chin revealing herself to be not only an elegant technician but a feisty partner for Danielson. She met his speedy, relentless efforts to restrict her space with renewed surges of energy. Contact got a bit rough, with grabbing hands, whipping and scissoring legs, but the choreography never got blurry. Although the female speaker eventually gave up—“It’s all so exhausting! I can’t go on like this!”—the dancers went on, until suddenly they didn’t. “So much for resolutions!” the man said, as the piece slammed to a halt, no winner in sight.

The duet might have spurred the chattering couple to recognize their hopelessness, but could they even see the dancing through their irritation? Can we ever clearly see a work of art—or one another, in romance or on the world stage—for all the old, personal stuff clogging our heads?

Cave (a duet from Danspace’s 2003–2004 season) was distinguished for Robert Regala’s buoyant yet stark, driven performance as a Buddhist-monk–like figure with an attendant (Geraldine Cardiel) fussing around him. Its weird ending—Cardiel repeatedly jumping onto Regala’s chest until he sits bolt upright—suggested a terrifying rescue from near-death.

Opening the new four-part Scarlatti Sonatas, a boyish Danielson burst into the space, halting just short of colliding with Melinda Haas’ piano. Stepping lightly on the balls of his feet, he flowed, ebbed, and spiraled with the Scarlatti melody, later discovering a kid-sized piano—perhaps a gift. A trio section benefited greatly from dancing by Sadie Gilbertson and Pam Wagner, two breezy, high-spirited sylphs who gave Regala a run for his money.

With Danielson’s expert, intuitive ear for music, his sure hand as a crafter of movement, and fine performances overall, “lucid body” provided a memorable, satisfying evening. See