Summerstage: Sinha Dance; Sean Curran

July 7, 2000

Séan Curran
Photo by Josef Astor

Summerstage 2000

Sinha Dance and Sean Curran Company
Culture Splash, Central Park

New York, New York

July 7, 2000

Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr

The production quality of free summertime performances in New York keeps improving. Summerstage?armed with a bevy of corporate underwriters?now boasts a huge cantilevered roof structure that supports full theatrical lighting and sound systems above the stage. The artistic quality, however, remains uneven, as the lows and highs, respectively, of this program proved.

Indian performer Roger Sinha, imported from Montreal, did two solos with Pascale Léonard?s assistance. Léonard made tea (chai) in the first dance, Burning Skin, and danced bharata natyam quite proficiently with Sinha in the second, Chai?in which no tea was involved.

In Skin, Sinha?s recorded voice confessed his former difficulty in accepting his Indian identity, while he danced a grab bag of cultural styles. Pastiches of bharata natyam, karate, capoeira, classical ballet, and hip-hop, done to a musical melange of Strauss?s “Blue Danube Waltz,” Dean Martin?s rendition of Frank Loesser?s “Standing on the Corner,” Gaelic jigs and a tango, as well as traditional Indian ragas, constituted arrant cultural appropriation. At the climax, after stripping to trousers from his Indian robes, he donned a shirt that had been soaking in boiling water. Ouch!

In Chai, like an old-time vaudevillian, he tangoed, wearing skirt and elaborate headdress; parodied ballet in red tutu and sequined mask; and in a kilt tried to turn classic Indian dance into Highland fling. Sinha achieved not stylistic synthesis but the choreographic equivalent of multiple personality disorder. Furthermore?and most crucially?as a dancer he?s a jack of all styles but a master of none.

On the up side, after intermission Sean Curran, who embraces his Irish heritage, regaled us with two company dances. Abstract Concrete, with live percussion score by Tigger Benford, deconstructed a repeated duet, multiplying it into three couples, reversing the roles and changing the orientation. It was a deadpan commentary on abstraction and a paragon of choreographic manipulation. Amy Brous, Tony Gugglietti and Heather Waldon-Arnold were standouts.

Folk Dance for the Future
was a hearty romp through Irish step dancing, on which Curran was weaned in his native Boston. Curran interspersed his own hilarious solos with group passages that turned authentic Irish motifs into brisk modern movement. He danced with the authority of someone who?unlike Sinha?actually can do the real thing convincingly. In the finale, all ten dancers skittered their feet madly in fake versions of Irish jigging: a riotous, crowd-pleasing parody.