Daniel McCusker Dance Projects

March 12, 2010

Daniel McCusker Dance Projects
“regrets only + some other things”

Green Street Studios

Cambridge, MA

March 12–13, 2010

Reviewed by Iris Fanger


Horizon. Photo by Michael Hoy, Courtesy Daniel McCusker Dance Projects.


Danny McCusker’s program of five premieres and an earlier duet began with (nostalgia), a reminder of his lineage. As four strong women marched onstage in unison, forming straight-edged patterns, I thought about the 19th-century Amazon marches in musical spectacles such as The Black Crook, then of the Rockettes, and, more directly, of the stripped-down dances of Lucinda Childs, with whom McCusker performed for seven years.

McCusker attracts some of the Boston area’s most experienced dancers. His company consists mainly of women, many of them teachers, choreographers, or gifted students groomed in his classes at Tufts University and elsewhere. Brian Crabtree was the only man onstage because McCusker chose not to perform. (His presence was missed.) The dancers, proficient and often eloquent in the collaborative choreography, brought varying levels of maturity that contributed to the fascinating presentation of contemporary dance. While there’s no storytelling in McCusker’s dances, relationships develop while the dancers perform their designated tasks. Nor does he employ theatrical conventions. The performers simply walk onstage or line up against the walls to wait for their cues.

One of McCusker’s strengths is his eclectic taste in music. In the premiere of regrets only, the longest work on the program, John Adams’ score, “Shaker Loops,” neither propelled nor prohibited the six dancers from entering alone or with partners into the center spotlight, as they gradually built to an exuberant group ending.

Along with the music, each work had one or more signature movements that set it apart from the others. In regrets only Joelle Garfi repeatedly traced a mysterious rune in the air; for the tender duet Roundelay, performed to “Seoul,” by Amiina, the Icelandic musical quartet, Crabtree and Audra Carabetta rarely touched as they mirrored gestures, including her recurrent sideways patting of the air with rounded arms.

After a large group work, sketch, and the brief solo because she asked for Katherine Mueller, the finale burst like a firecracker display in a change of pace. Just when you had pegged McCusker as a maker of movement for its own sake and loveliness, with no apologies for gravity and weight, the premiere of Horizon up-ended those expectations. To instrumental music (and scratchy-sounding folk songs) from Brian Harnetty’s “American Winter,” Alison Ball, Carabetta, and Crabtree portrayed specific characters, conveyed emotions rather than blank expressions on their faces, and twisted their bodies into contorted postures. Dressed in Americana costumes (c. 1940s) and pinned at times in a trio of lighted doorways, the figures of Horizon suggest that McCusker has found a new pathway, branching out from his achievements of the past.