Douglas Dunn & Dancers

June 20, 2000

Douglas Dunn & Dancers

Douglas Dunn & Dancers

Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery
New York, New York

June 20?July 2, 2000

By Gus Solomons jr

Good-natured curmudgeon Douglas Dunn has been defying conventionality with tongue-in-cheek since dancing with Merce Cunningham, Yvonne Rainer and the improvisational collective Grand Union in the 1970s. He’s still at it. In his new hour-long The Common Good, subtitled “dance made with advice fromothers,” his wife, Grazia Della-Terza, and four energetic young women join him. He cites his advisors in the program but doesn’t specify what advice?if any?he took. The piece embodies his typically dry wit and Cunningham-clear, unpredictable movement. It’s accompanied by an aural crazy quilt: from silence to David Lindley’s plaintive electric guitars, Scarlatti harpsichord to hot salsa by the Buena Vista Social Club.

In his opening solo Dunn leans into languid lunges with arms waving an erratic semaphore. He crouches, as if to keep his dancing private, then arches back to bask in Carol Mullins’s sunny lighting. Maturity lends import to his quirky movement. With age a performer’s concentration intensifies; the suspense of simple gesture is heightened by the awareness that youthful resilience can no longer cover a misstep. Dunn’s solid, articulate feet ground him; his outstretched fingertips palpate the air like antennae.

Della-Terza awakes from snoozing on a pillow downstage and glides across the space on tiptoe in a kimono and stocking feet accompanied by an aria sung by John McCormack. Her movement is the lyrical counterpart of Dunn’s lumbering grace.

Kate Cross, Monica Olsson, Beth Simons and Waka Watanabe act as chorus, moving the two principals around and dancing interludes between their appearances. Their movement, too, is charmingly ungainly, and their physical fluency refreshes our palate like wine between rich courses of a gourmet feast.

Wearing blue coveralls, Dunn and Della-Terza sit in cardboard rooms opposite each other, dancing to their own recorded voices in a dialogue about aging by Jean Rhys. The young women pull little colored streamers from holes in the coveralls, then shroud them with a flowery shawl when they lie down, side-by-side. Dunn, the inveterate abstractionist, creeps to the verge of pathos, then splashes ice water in its face. After the poignant moment, the couple, in neon sportswear, returns for a hot salsa finale with the quartet that obliterates sentimentalism and makes you giggle.