Pat Graney and Company

January 11, 2002

The Pat Graney Company retrospective celebrated their long tenure in the Pacific Northwest.
Courtesy Pat Graney Company

Pat Graney Company

The Moore Theatre
Seattle, Washington
January 11?19, 2002

Reviewed by Gigi Berardi

Pat Graney’s “Live at the Moore! A Dance Retrospective,” ran over two weekends in January. This was the company’s first retrospective in the twenty-three years that Graney has been choreographing in the Pacific Northwest.

opened both weekend programs and featured five women from the original 1989 cast. (It was then titled 7/Uneven, with seven women performing.) The piece has toured across the United States and to Europe.

The scenic design was sparse?five sets of uneven bars?and the music and lights helped fill the space as the dancers flexed their muscles and tested their strength, stretching their wills and egos, especially those on the front line: Holly Batt, Cathy Sutherland, and Celeste Garcia-Ramberg. The dance opened dramatically with the dancers, clad in white tops and shorts on a dimly lit stage, draping themselves in various positions on the bars. Graney’s phrases for the piece?performed in unison or in canon?were presented with a sense of purpose and urgency to the driving, electronic score of Arturo Peal. The dance was as mesmerizing as the music, with much of the movement boasting an arboreal flare.

The first weekend’s program included the oldest work (The Table, 1983) as well as the newest, a premiere, Mitzi’s Dance, with accordion music by Kepa Junkera and plenty of foot stomping, pelvic thrusting, wiggling, walking, flicking of skirts, and posing. The Table featured trademark Graney gestures and hand jives, with themes of alienation and miscommunication.

Pagan Love Song,
an audience favorite, concluded both programs. This piece is named after an Esther Williams film of the same title. Rehearsal director and performer Alison Cockrill was the only remaining original dancer from the cast at its premiere in 1989. In mid-nineteenth-century bathing costumes and matching caps, men and women performed triplets and little jetés with curved arm gestures in a kind of modern dance parody. There were lots of diagonal runs, with wild hand gestures, and entrances and exits with bodies squarely and firmly set to the front while walking across the stage. In a separate section, the men performed, with beautiful placement, an adagio.

Other pieces on the two programs included Colleen Ann, a mix of Scottish country with Irish step dancing, head and shoulder jive with a grand chain Graney-style, and tumbling and bumping, performed to contemporary Celtic music. The autobiographical piece was also signed in American Sign Language at the end, in gestures telling the story of the Graney family’s emigration to this country from Ireland. This demanding piece was danced in 7/8 time over a constant 8/8 musical beat, so the dancers stepped, tapped, and gestured against the music.

There is something almost wholesome, certainly honest, about Graney’s work, perhaps in its utterly clear messages?even with Prince & Princess, in the second weekend of the retrospective, about the sexualizing and sexual abuse of children. In the piece, the gestures were painfully big and clear. These were cutie-pies with a history, their nuanced moves a perfect fit with the jolting, ugly music. Graney’s clear vision, and darned good dance, have made her a terrific problem-solver, and an optimist at that, resulting in a jubilant quality to her work.