Julie Brett Adams

March 16, 2002

Julie Brette Adams

Armory for the Arts
Santa Fe, New Mexico

March 16, 2002

Reviewed by Janet Eigner

In the grief dance Knowing, Julie Brette Adams was seated, her bare back the only illuminated focus?a torso that popped its muscles, vibrated and strained within the confines of a bench below and two tepee poles above. Adams, a local modern dancer/choreographer performed Knowing in a series of three solo concerts, along with the premiere of Some Assembly Required, a delightful, unique duet with drummer Jefferson Vorhees that paired the artists in a full-body percussive jazz contest. Artist Frida Kahlo’s intense, inner moods emerged in the surreal Frida’s Dreams, another premiere, which rounded out the concert programs. What the dances had in common were elements of exploration and surprise which kept the audiences’ rapt attention.

Adams’s movement, linear and clean, exploited the qualities of her reedy, powerful body. She initiated dynamic movement from her astonishing torso, which can variously take on the undulating qualities of Jell-O, or of an Indian yogi isolating and separating every muscle and vertebra. An optimistic, giddy Frida whirled to the solo piano of J.S. Bach in the first Frida’s Dreams segment, “The White Dream.” Her lacy white pantaloons hinted at ecstatic fantasies. Next, she stood in a wedding processional, holding one bent arm high as though on the arm of the taller Diego Rivera. Face then anguished, heart broken, she ran, doubled over, and punched the air like a boxer.

In the darkened pause before the second segment, “The Chair,” a metallic sound like a far-off train whistle blew through the auditorium. A light came up on Frida in a black suit, seated on a wooden chair. She was tethered to her chair by a wide black-and-white ribbon, suggesting an immobilizing pain. Adams conveyed Kahlo’s struggle by bringing her knees to her chin. Her arms moved like wings, suggesting she soared only in imagination. The lonely sound of wind preceded the final section, “The Birds.” A clothesline rose, strung with colorful birds and three infant’s dresses, each with black crows standing above. Bach’s chamber music helped Adams convey Kahlo’s longing for children. Wide white elastic bands on her torso symbolized Kahlo’s back brace, which she wore for most of her life. Adams showed Kahlo’s anguish at having had miscarriages with furious running in place, wrestling with herself, silent screams, and a final reach for a child’s dress.

Besides Knowing, the tightly choreographed and focused pieces Some Assembly Required and the unaccompanied solo Tuning the Silence were the concert’s other standouts. The three surreal vignettes of Frida’s Dreams were too loosely strung together with a limited movement and choreographic vocabulary to do justice to either artist, although they were engrossing nonetheless.