Neta Dance Company

June 6, 2001

Nostalgia crept through The Neta Dance Company’s performance of Good-Bye and Good Luck.>
Photo by Anja Hitzenberger, courtesy Neta Dance Company

Neta Dance Company

The Kitchen
New York, New York

June 6-9, 2001

Reviewed by Jody Sperling

After Neta Pulvermacher’s 1993 Five Beds/Children of the Dream is a smart, funny, poignant work about life growing up on a kibbutz her recent concert “6 Violins, 2 Cellos, 4 Stories” was something of a disappointment. Although carefully crafted and well performed, none of the four works presented had the emotional resonance of the earlier dance.

In Vivaldiana, the first piece on the program, six women (Tracey Dickson, Theresa Ling, Maile Okamura, Brittany Reese, Tami Stronach, and Nikki Zeichner) clad in brightly colored dresses formed progressively shifting diagonal patterns to Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos in G Minor. Originally commissioned by Ballet Wisconsin, the dance was essentially a music visualization. But as the choreography failed to add either insight or commentary to the music, the result was a bland, if pleasant, abstraction.

Violinist/composer Miri Ben-Ari created a starker ambiance, with thoughtful silences, for 4 Stories. In this new work, Pulvermacher played with arranging her six-member ensemble into different groupings, this time including two men (Jeremy Laverdure and Jason Marchant) with Dickson, Okamura, Reese, and Stronach. Despite the dance’s title, there were no stories here, only vague hints at relationships. At one quiet moment a memorable one in this piece filled with comings and goings two dancers balanced in semaphoric poses as they kept repositioning their heads; more, it seemed, in an effort to get comfortable than to look for something or at each other. Later, two trios engaged in parallel partnering sequences that just began to reveal a shared group intimacy as the dance ended.

In a revival of her 1988 solo The Great Big Orange, set to Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood), Pulvermacher aimed for more characterization. Wearing a floppy, conical hat somewhere between a jester’s and a dunce’s cap, she acted the imp, yawning, slumping over, and bursting into spins. Wooden chairs onstage created a schoolroom atmosphere. Perched on one of these was a large orange that became a key prop; at one point the choreographer stuffed it up her shirt, then later, down her pants. Pulvermacher remained a wry, sprightly performer, even though her imagery didn’t quite add up.

The concert concluded with a reworking of Pulvermacher’s 1994 Good-Bye and Good Luck, featuring the same cast as 4 Stories. The work created a visually nostalgic mood, as the dancers, clad in white, vintage-y underclothes, moved while manipulating old violins. Themes of Jewish identity floated by Marchant begins the piece with a singsong exhortation to “remember that you are a Jew.” But these themes failed to develop into narrative or structure. We were left wondering where these dancing, sleepwalking fiddlers were going, and why, in the end, one of them (Okamura) stuck her violin bow down her back.