Pam Tanowitz Dance

November 2, 2006

Pam Tanowitz Dance
Danspace Project, NYC

November 2-5, 2006

Reviewed by Emily Macel

Stasia Blyskal in costume for Pam Tanowitz�s Storage

Photo by Richard Termine, courtesy Pam Tanowitz

Pam Tanowitz knows how to use what she’s got—which is a small group of talented dancers capable of meshing modern dance with ballet, and intensity with restraint. She’s also got a great sense of space, as she proved by using the gorgeous, hollowed-out sanctuary-turned-theater to its full potential. A waiting canvas consisting of a grand piano, risers along the back wall, and a few doorways used for entry became transformed as these elements evolved, disappeared, or reinvented themselves as the show progressed.

Tanowitz received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and worked with Viola Farber, a founding member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Her aesthetic choices fall somewhere between Cunningham’s and Twyla Tharp’s styles. A dancer does a ballet promenade flexing her foot rather than pointing it; attitudes and arabesques are danced with slow control into quick leaps. For this program of four works—Pendant, The Blue Bamboula, Grand Bamboula, and Storage—the music also moved between styles, from Dan Siegler’s trancelike rhythmic sounds to a menacing, striking piano score written and played by composer Charles Wuornien.

In one section four dancers collapsed and crawled across red-velvet–covered risers in the rear of the performance space. As music faded in and out, their shadows created another cast of movers on the walls and pillars. Electric fans that sat in the corner and appeared to be stationary were turned on and became props, providing a musical hum.

Throughout the evening the repetition of evocative phrases and movement motifs in varying speeds and couplings created a sense of déjà vu. In the ebbing and flowing choreography, two dancers would take the spotlight in an intimate, tango-like duet while the company continued to move in the background. Then, in a seamless transition, the stage would fill with moving bodies as the focus turned to ensemble sequences. Tanowitz chose not to make much distinction between the four pieces, instead weaving them together into what was in effect a larger, impressive, evening-length piece. One distinct section, though, was The Grand Bamboula, performed by guest artist Elizabeth Walker of New York City Ballet. Clad in pointe shoes, she danced a solo that had the lingering cinematic quality of an Alfred Hitchcock film. See