Hope Stone Dance

January 10, 2008

Hope Stone Dance

Cullen Theater, Houston, TX

January 10–11, 2008

Reviewed by Clare Croft

Although Jane Weiner titled her new work See Me, the piece is not really about eyesight. From the Braille writing on the front of the program to the work’s inclusion of blind performer Michael Garrett, See Me riffs on the idea of seeing and being seen from a variety of sensorial perspectives. The work, an hour-long montage of vignettes danced by Weiner’s Houston-based company Hope Stone Dance, suggests questions about who and what gets noticed in society and how.

    Weiner highlights how dancers work together through touch and sound. In one section, several dancers partner each other while blindfolded. Later Ian Mann, a young student from Weiner’s community dance school the Hope Center, leads a blindfolded dancer around the stage by clapping his hands. Repeatedly Garrett, dressed in a black suit and tapping his cane, crosses the stage. His wry smile contrasts with the dancers’ intensity. The happiest person onstage cannot see at all.

    With the exception of Garrett, the performers seem self-conscious about being seen. One of Weiner’s choreographic trademarks seems to be coy, over the shoulder glances directed at the audience. The acknowledgement of the audience serves the piece’s theme, but the repetition of the gesture veers toward too easy humor. See Me’s appeals to comedy limit the work’s potential emotional landscape.

    The set, designed by David Graeve, offers a darker side to the piece. Twenty-plus televisions broadcast everything from Smurf cartoons to fuzz suggesting a paradox: In a media-saturated culture people see so much that they see nothing at all. As many dances unfold, Mann sits downstage engrossed in a television, oblivious to the art behind him.

    A guest from Houston Ballet, Kelly Myernick, appears as the stereotypical celebrity in See Me. She saunters about in devil red boots and scarf, sometimes gaining the leering eye of the rest of the cast. But even she gets ignored. The other dancers eventually choose television over live glamour. In a solo near the end, Myernick finally shifts See Me’s gaze from outward to inward. Barefoot, she moves liquid and long. Her legs guide her forward as her loose hair shrouds her face from view. She seems to be dancing for herself. Only this dance compels Mann to turn around. Now he sees something worth watching.


(Photo by Simon Gentry)