Prometheus Dance

May 26, 2005

Tommy Neblett and Diane Arvanites-Noya in
Wreckage. Photo by Jaye R. Phillips, courtesy Prometheus Dance

Prometheus Dance
Boston Conservatory Theatre, Boston, MA

May 26–30, 2005

Reviewed by Iris Fanger


Prometheus Dance presents movement pieces that veer toward theater in their strong images and characterizations, although they do not spin out a specific story. Its spring program offered five Boston premieres.

The Queens’ Spectre
featured four women in black velvet robes topped by white Elizabethan-style ruffs at the neck. Perhaps portraying Henry VIII’s tormented wives or the cats-cradle of enemies that surrounded his daughters, the dancers were tethered to ladderback chairs that served as home base, building block, trap, and sometimes prison. The often erotic movement was freighted with powerful emotions and regret, as if these women were expressing their collective fate through convulsions or fragmented falls. John Kusiak’s pounding score combined music and lines from William Blake’s poem “The Tiger” (“Tiger, tiger, burning bright . . .”) for a dream-time collage of historical allusion.

Co-artistic directors Diane Arvanites-Noya and Tommy Neblett choreographed and performed Wreckage, set on a pier that stretched into what looked like a New England lake. As Neblett sat on the pier, Arvanites-Noya manipulated her body under and over it, and around him, like the Lady of the Lake or a vengeful former lover. The couple partnered each other again in the sorrow-tinged Solace, alongside Andy Taylor-Blenis and guest artist Bryan Steele. The quartet exchanged weight, movement, and partners, suggesting that the work had its origins in contact improvisation. A through line of energy sustained the movement’s sinuous quality despite occasional frozen poses.

In Crazy Girl, choreographed by Arvanites-Noya to Tuvan music and American rhythm and blues, eight women re-created the sensibilities of a hot, languid Southern afternoon. In housedresses and bare feet, they mimed and moved to rhythms of work and play, embellished by outbursts of rebellion against their lot in life. One evocative segment had them hauling buckets, carrying them on their heads or crashing them onto the floor, occasionally in unison, other times in groups of two or three that inverted the order of the steps.

The evening’s disappointment was Neblett’s newest work, Far Fairer Hopes. Unfortunately, the cast of four women sank into the slow cadences rather than riding them, thus losing the lyricism of walking and swaying while stretching out an arm or leg. It brought to mind the old film of Doris Humphrey’s Air for the G-String, but on Prometheus, the exhilarating lift of those bodies and sense of purpose was missing.

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