North Carolina Dance Theatre

November 2, 2006

North Carolina Dance Theatre
Booth Playhouse, NC Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Charlotte, NC

November 2-5, 9-12, 2006

Reviewed by Colleen M. Payton

Anna Gerberich with guitarist Adam Whiting in Mark Diamond�s Aqua Terra Flora

Photo by Jeff Cravotta, courtesy North Carolina Dance Theatre

One consequence of choreographers’ ever-growing freedom to study one another’s work, through the easy accessibility of video, is a sameness in the contemporary dance vocabulary. That problem was apparent at North Carolina Dance Theatre’s annual “Innovative Works” program, which featured three world premieres: Septime Webre’s you/me/we, Mark Diamond’s Aqua Terra Flora, and Dwight Rhoden’s sexy, sultry Moody Booty Blues. Also on the program were NCDT dancer Heather Ferranti Ferguson’s Seed, a trite teaching ballet on an Oriental theme, and Daniel Gwirtzman’s adolescent, tiresome Cycles, more performance art than dance, set to recorded sounds of water, traffic, conversation.

The world premieres pleased, however. Webre’s work, in three episodes, about sexual yearning was danced to Nina Simone’s slow, sweltering vocals. The first, a rapid-fire, sex-charged solo for new hire Randolph Ward, at once heart-thudding and heartbreaking, addressed almost violently the theme of thwarted aspiration. The second and third, both pas de deux, suggested two faces of urban desire: one encapsulated, scorching passion in a metropolitan slum; the other barefoot, post-cocktail seduction. In all three, Webre asks his dancers to move within the music, not to the notes, and strikingly expresses time, place, atmospheres, and relationships without sets or props. We know these characters; we recognize their private micro-worlds amid the city’s clamor.

Aqua Terra Flora is a muddled but pretty piece, hampered by mime. The dancers, mostly solo, gather and sow, hunt with invisible bows, make tools, ride astride one another’s backs, soar, whirl, and elongate, then punctuate the action with poses. A resolution of unclear precedence, with unexpected inversions and cycling arms, unites them near the end.

Rhoden’s small opus hit big with the audience, partly because of Ward’s shine and panache. Ward’s gift is control: precise placement at each point in choreography of dazzling speed. Moody Booty Blues addresses sexual challenge. Three men and two women engage in an insolent parlay of advance and retreat, telling glances, shrugged shoulders, and knock-down, sticky surrenders—all to suggestive, early ’60s blues and pop rock.

Webre, Rhoden, and Diamond each explore the realities of a sometimes alienating, raw, contemporary life and reveal its beauties. What becomes hackneyed is the choreographic language for these expressions—the fetal poses, the stiff elbows and knees—and an unfortunate refusal to think beyond pleasing the crowd. See