Dancefusion International House Theater

May 24, 2000


International House Theater
3701 Chestnut Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

May 24?25, 2000

Reviewed by Lewis Whittington

Gwendolyn Bye, founder and artistic director of Dancefusion, titled her concert at the International House Theater “Working,” even though the themes of several of the pieces were played out in bedrooms. The evening of six modern works included two premieres: Two Upon a Mattress by Joseph Cicala and Stephen Welsh, along with Susan Deutsch’s Round and About. Both had interesting elements, but also the feeling of works in progress. The reconstructions and revivals showed Bye?s company mission as modern dance archivists. She brought together so many dance authors that the show almost buckled under its own choreographic weight.

Dancefusion began boldly with an excerpt from Mary Anthony’s Songs, to music by Debussy. There was no escaping the predictability of much of Anthony’s studied phrasing, but dancers brushed-off the neo-classical look and gave it unexpected life. Heather McGinnis, Dara Milovanovic and Christine Taylor pulsated in and out of airy clusters and were especially lyrical in the staggered unison passes. Next was Suellen Haag’s Perhaps, set to a woeful cello score by Astor Piazzolla, begun with four figures as a mound of flesh and evolving into a dancemare about insomnia. Bye hovered menacingly, hurling Franz Kafka’s severe prose, leading the group to stuttered, torturous movement patterns ending dramatically with one dancer being knocked down by the words.

Cicala and Welsh performing in Mattress that began as a drag version of The Princess and the Pea, the first of five vignettes that painted a touching portrait of a male couple. A bed is the dance arena where the pair reached silent-film hilarity in their punchy sleepwalking dance, then writhing on and around each other to the theme music from the horror-flick Carrie. At one point Cicala repeatedly flung himself at Welsh who reluctantly caught him, then continued telling the story of a breaking relationship.

Cicala’s Glass Marbles dramatizes text from Talking With, a book by Jane Martin about a mother’s dying wishes and acts. Cicala wears a black floor-length skirt and plays the specter flying over Heather McGinnis’ convulsing body and helping her to embrace her death. McGinnis’ understated performance illuminate Martin’s memoir with hypnotic dignity. The ‘marbles’ are symbolically her hold on life and when they are spilled out onto the stage the sound of them rolling away is deafening.

Jim May’s Little Red, as in Riding Hood, has the story acted out by Suellen Haag in a vulgar retelling made in response to the 1990?s National Endowment for the Arts anti-artist decisions.

Deutsch’s Round and About, for five women and one man, is scored to original music by her husband Jim Hamilton (who was at the performance with son asleep in his arms). It unfurled like a collision of the styles of Graham and Duncan.