Rosanna Gamson/World Wide and Contradanza

February 16, 2005

Rosario Solis, Yseye M. Appleton. Photo: Scott Groller.


Rosanna Gamson/World Wide and Contradanza
REDCAT at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA

February 16–20, 2005

Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf


On paper the ingredients sounded promising: Two stellar companies from different worlds (Gamson is based in Los Angeles; Cecilia Appleton’s Contradanza hails from Mexico City), collaborating on a dance-theater piece based on Carlos Fuentes’ 1962 novella, Aura. As Fuentes’ tale offers a blending of past and present, where reality collides with dream states, an entire world was meant to be conjured.

Indeed, somewhere buried amid the 89 minutes of fabric fluttering, text spouting (Fuentes’ words resonated; Gamson’s additional text cloyed), and crashingly loud musical meanderings (“Vissi d’arte” anyone?), there was some very good dancing in this U.S. premiere. (The work opened in Mexico City last October.) Too bad, then, that there was a massive failure to communicate, an irony that was compounded by the coda’s final speech, in which the narrator, Richard Gallegos, droned on about peoples’ inability to connect with one another—an attempt by the choreographers, perhaps, to rationalize the work’s blatant misfiring.

The story—a young historian accepts a position editing a late general’s memoirs at the behest of his elderly widow, meanwhile fantasizing about the widow’s beautiful niece, Aura, who turns out to be a projection of the widow—is presented in both Spanish and English. But narrative falls prey to the choreographers’ insistence on smothering coherence with disjointed and sporadically gratuitous scenes: Carin Noland suddenly doing a no-holds-barred, robotic go-go-type dance to over-amped rock music; Yseye M. Appleton on stilts waving long bolts of silk; and Lourdes Fernández and Manuel Márquez’ full-frontal nudity, which seemed tacked on for effect.

That said, Appleton proved a powerful soloist sans stilts, his beautifully arched back and keen articulation in neo-yoga poses providing a respite from the many group arm-flailings. So, too, was Michael Gómez an indefatigable presence, a shot of adrenaline executing leaps and twists. An impressive unison circle looked Busby Berkeley-esque, while a smattering of gymnastics, including no-hand flips, butted up against the occasional waltz or techno-track (a pastiche of original but uninspired music by David Gamson, Alejandro Escuer, and Appleton). The whole, however, proved far less spectacular than the sum of these isolated parts.

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