Train Wreck Dance Company
Train Wreck Dance Company
May 18, 2001
Reviewed by George Jackson
Dance companies have been born in times of economic uncertainty before, but the opening for Train Wreck Dance Company was unusual because it intended to defy budgetary gloom just to have fun. One piece achieved that goal exclusively: Spanish Moon, a work that abolished the border between art and life, felt more like a party than a performance. It took up the entire second half of the program and looked not choreographed but improvised. Train Wreck company founder/choreographers Hilary Wright and Michael Corrigan, like all good party hosts, set the scene and left the rest to the guests?the dancers (professionals who take class or use studio space at Rockville?s new American Dance Institute) and the musicians of The Bootstrap Boogie Band.
Everyone in Spanish Moon took to the boogie and bluesy music (by Little Feat and Kim Reynolds) in his or her own way, or followed the example set by a partner. The cast, an even dozen dancers, was an odd mixture. Each one, though, despite different body types and backgrounds (ballet, show biz, modern, Far Eastern) clicked with the others and the onstage band. Former Bolshoi dancer Sergei Vladimirov looked halfway between plum and prune, age-wise, whereas in the program?s first half, dancing the set pieces Illuminations and Fractures, he appeared younger. His technique was remarkably strong and his manner severe, except when called on to play a party game. For this charade, he had to act out the role of a romantic hero, and he loosened up, satirizing his own tradition with flair. Neli Beliakaite really let go, compared to her restraint in the set works. She?s a long, voluptuous, blonde Lithuanian with the latest in high extensions and a velvety movement quality. What is she doing dancing in the suburbs? Former Joffrey dancer Michael Bjerknes, Train Wreck?s ballet master, came out of dancer retirement no doubt because he?s the only one tall enough to partner Beliakaite. He seemed comfortable returning to the spotlight, and hadn?t even bothered to hide a small but distinct bald spot.
Rachel Merga hails from Britain, spent a dozen years in Germany, toured Southeast Asia, and has lots of experience in musicals. She performed the shimmy, and much else, with classical precision. Mikayo Nitadori?s dancing was tight, like the weave in a Noh play?s stage mat. Three local men (Washington Ballet?s Jared Nelson, Maryland Youth Ballet teacher Austin St. John, and Thomas Bell from the once-upon-a-time Maryland Ballet) did well at disguising their limitations (bow legs, lack of stretch, and no turnout, respectively).
Since Moon had the dynamics of a dance party, from dignified entrances to the final frenzy, and looked lived rather than rehearsed, can it be judged as art? The choreographers say they don?t care: In founding this company, they declared in the program notes, they were not out to make an artistic statement, but to enjoy themselves. Nothing wrong with that when the audience is included (which it was), and watching dancers behave like people rather than gods can be fun!
The first half of the program featured the fully choreographed pieces Illuminations by Brian Roberts (a former dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet now teaching for Miami City Ballet) and Fractures by independent dancemaker Dana Tai Soon Burgess. Roberts chose short piano pieces by Federico Mompou and based his movement on traditional archetypes?the three graces, the two companions, the hierarchical grand défilé?but weakened their impact by sentimentalizing. Burgess spun a trio to Arvo Pärt chamber music and cast Nelson, dressed in flowing silk from the navel down, as the object of Merga?s and Nitadori?s desire. The work?s overall flow didn?t obscure countercurrents that showed the intensity of the women?s passion and the painful choice Nelson made. The evening?s opening bit, (A Typical Day At) Train Wreck Rehearsal, was a preview of the big party piece and its impromptu flair.
Following this debut, Train Wreck will tour performing spaces around the Washington Beltway. Given the company?s name, the directors ought to consider adding two pieces to the repertory?Tatjana Gsovsky?s Signal, in which the dancers line up as a choo-choo train that crashes, and another railroad opus, Ted Shawn?s all-male visualization of Honegger?s Pacific 231.