The Nerve Series
Saskia Benjamin, Blake Beckham, Kathleen Matuszewich in Elizabeth McCune Dishman?s Nike of Age.
The Nerve Series: New Modern Dance 2002
The Ballroom Studios
April 19?21, 2002
7 Stage Theater
April 26?28, 2002
Reviewed by Sherri L. McLendon
The Nerve Series, a collection of new modern dance works by six emerging Atlanta choreographers, created works about the effects of media on human experience. The concert, staged in two performance spaces, attracted local avant garde performance artists and the established dance community.
John R. Stronks?s choreographic voice emerged as the most distinctive. His fragmented, multimedia works used elements of postmodern dance, performance art, voice, and popular dance in a series of vignettes about a young man?s life. Juxtaposing the theme of coming of age with an emergent homosexuality, the works questioned heroism and reflected the character?s longing for unconditional love.
For example, in For all I know, Stronk’s, in a homemade Superman costume, moved through horizontal and vertical space in a series of elongated positions to create the illusion of being airborne, the way 7-year-olds pretend to fly. Then, in mid-flight, he gave a rehearsed, deliberately kitschy wave to the audience.
In a life lived in pieces, Stronk sang a bluesy song a cappella while his footwear, a red thigh-high, spike-heeled come-hither boot on one foot, a pointe shoe on the other, shocked the audience into titters. In can be like life, the character wore a too-small football jersey emblazoned with the name of national football hero E. Smith and, to establish a sense of longing, remembered a puppy he once had.
Finally, in But it is not the same, the character said, “A life lived in pieces can be like life, but it?s not the same as living,” before dancing the Pony to rave music, expounding on real-life experience with a comic juxtaposition of eras and styles.
Elizabeth McCune Dishman?s Nike of Age borrowed text from Ray Bradbury?s classic Dandelion Wine. Emphasizing the soles of the feet as a metaphor for the soul, the piece takes a comic, athletic look at the relationship between faith and consumerism. At one point, the dancers literally walked and ran up walls and rebounded to the ground, then pitched forward in a forty-five-degree angle before trying again. The athletic exercise suggests that our faith in our own abilities has become inextricably linked with our faith in consumer goods.
Camille Dieterle?s Reach and OutsideIn/InsideOut evidence the choreographer?s sinewy, well-integrated movement style. In Reach, a quartet for one man and three women, she uses extension and release throughout the dancers? whole bodies to swoop through level changes and create moments of synchronicity between partners. In the latter work, Dieterle gave a highly personal performance about a woman?s decision to give birth, to create. Confronting what lay ahead, she sat on the stage floor, flexed feet extended into space, hands resting on her stomach, gaze unflinching.
Martha Donovan?s Soundless suggests currents and waves, as does Driving Directions for Bright Times, both of which she performed solo. Soundless was powerful and polished. Creating a whirlpool motif, Donovan alternated between turned out and parallel positions; balletic footwork was interspersed with rounded torso work and spiraling, bent-knee turns en l?air. Gestures were delivered from the chest and directed overhead to evoke rough seas. The latter piece was slightly less polished and was more monologue with movement than dance. The text overstated the analogy of breaking waves to the lesbian character?s coming-out experience.
Blake Beckham?s Life after Life turned everyday movement into an existentialist statement. Performed by Beckham, the work defined the body in space through gestural movement: rubbing, yawning, cleansing, reaching, praying, slicing, and adjusting the audience?s perceptions of those movements. For example, the dancer?s transition into miming an inverted bicycle segued into hand movements stolen from “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” Each gesture followed through the entire body to its logical conclusion, originating the next movement.
The most pervasive statement on the effects of media on human life came via Kora Radella?s Fourfold. Wearing salt-and-pepper-patterned sweaters evoking late-night television static, the dancers explored primitive, animalistic tendencies within a technologically advanced world. The piece felt confrontational, with bodies slamming together, then gliding to the floor, or dancers grabbing one another?s heads to force turns. The theme of attraction and resistance held the disconcerting work together.