Marin 21st Century Dance

September 29, 2001

Cheryl Chaddick’s company offered a comic take on corporate culture in Hard Drive.
Courtesy Lorien Fenton

Marin Twenty-First Century Dance Collaboration

Marin Center Showcase Theater
San Rafael, California

September 29, 2001

Reviewed by Rita Felciano

With few small theaters, less of a nightlife, and real estate prices in the stratosphere, Marin County is the stepchild of Bay Area dance. The common wisdom is that Marin doesn’t offer a hospitable climate for dance. So Marin’s Twenty-first Century Dance Collaboration, an annual Bay Area sampler dating back to 1995 (under various titles) and featuring several Marin-based artists, is more of the exception than the rule.

The idea behind the showcase is simple: Invite collaborations between composers and choreographers; it gives you two creative minds for the price of one. Keep the pieces short?eight minutes max?but go for a broad spectrum of styles. This type of variety show may not be programming at its most high-minded, but it is less likely to try an audience’s mental stamina, since it offers new works (two-thirds were premieres this year) in small doses. The format also forces artists to be concise.

Even with these restrictions, the evening offered an exceptionally wide range of work. Some of it?no matter the style?was highly professional, but some of it also raised questions about the curatorial process. Those pieces echo Mark Morris’s dictum that “just because you want to do it doesn’t mean we want to see it.”

The evening opened with Los Angeles guest artists KIN Dance Company in their premiere of The Bored Meeting, a sharply timed, smartly edited spoof of everybody’s bête noire, the boring business meeting. Quickly cutting from stupor to rock ‘n’ rolling and tumbling physical comedy, this quartet of spiffy dancers looked uncannily like the Marx Brothers in suits. Glen Nyborg was responsible for the ticking clock score.

Also taking on the business world through the lens of comedy was Cheryl Chaddick’s excerpt from Hard Drive, supported by a cleverly punctuating sound score by Daniel Berkman. Freeze-frame gestural language exploded into full-bodied kaleidoscopic partnerings among colleagues caught in the daily grind of competing and collaborating. When the dispirited women, sluglike, finally dragged themselves away along the stage’s perimeters, you didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Laughter, or better, chuckles, were called for in Heidi Landgraf’s Caught. With four performers, one of them a singing Pandora Snailfly (composer Julie Adler) and Clarissa Berger’s fantastical costumes, Landgraf managed to create an insectarium of creatures yet to be classified by Darwin. While some of the creeping and crawling looked unnecessarily messy, Caught‘s itsy-bitsy spiders, I was quite sure, had escaped from Alice in Wonderland. (In the interest of full disclosure, Landgraf is a Dance Magazine staff member.)

The lovely Rupaktal featured three kathak dancers?Megan Black, Anya Devi, and Dyuti Sengupta?and a trio of musicians on tablas and sarod, with Jame Simmons calling out the intricate rhythms. Not primarily concerned with bravura footwork, this was a piece that highlighted change of pacing and the individual way in which each dancer interpreted rhythms that were both percussive and lyrical.

Two other works, Rose Pasquarello’s Extensions and Joseph Anthony Landini’s Rites were kept at least afloat by intriguing scores. Pasquarello’s was a modest but honest attempt to respond in pure dance terms to Nicola Berlinsky’s unpretentious score (played live) for two flutes, cello, and percussion, while Landini’s bland dancemaking was buoyed by the lyrical atonality-skirting music by Peter Lake Bellinger.

The remaining works didn’t belong on a professional program. At least not yet.