Wally Cardona Quartet

January 26, 1999

Wally Cardona Quartet

DTW’s Bessie Schönberg Theater
New York City, New York

January 26-February 14, 1999

Reviewed by Amanda Smith

You’ve got to have intelligence, maturity, and a soul of particular complexity to do Wally Cardona’s work-such as Four Ramonas, made last year, and performed this January at Dance Theater Workshop. It’s so slow and introverted that it becomes its own kind of up-close and personal. The movement is so pared down that an arm raised in a semi-profile pose can look surprisingly heroic.

The two men (Cardona and Alan Good, the Cunningham alumnus looking splendid here) and two women (Cunningham alumnae Kimberly Bartosik and Kathryn Sanders) wear gray tunics with metallic see-through pants; they are sometimes seen as individuals in pools of light, sometimes engaged in close partnering work, legs swinging, arms sinewy, but rarely do they look at the audience, a choreographic choice that makes the piece seem very private. The dance ends with the four, in unison, opening their hands to the audience, eyes to the floor.

Cardona’s new Open House 01 is less satisfying and less distilled, and is deeply in need of editing. The set is a wall of ivory muslin hung perpendicular to the audience’s right, and the quartet is abetted by guest artists Risa Steinberg (a José Limón alumna) and Christine Dakin of the Martha Graham Company. Though scheduled, Benjamin Millepied, from the New York City Ballet, did not dance in the gala because of an injury. The concept is that the work is adjustable to accommodate any or all of the guests, and Cardona is clearly interested in the experimental spirit of these three. Here the dancers face the audience, and for the quartet there’s lots of floorwork and a dissonant score by various artists. Steinberg looks a bit at sea in her solo, but Dakin dominates her material, her performance invested with the energy of the technique she has worked with for decades as well as the wisdom of her years onstage.

Cardona also performed Limón’s The Unsung, which was reconstructed by Steinberg. It was intriguing to see the contrast of Cardona’s work and this piece with its overtly grand technique and big jumps.

In the end, what lingers in memory is the elusive quality of Four Ramonas, due partly to the enigmatic sound score of Ronald Lawrence, with Rory Young and Cécile Le Prado. Its filtered sounds of singing are from an earlier decade, here a tango, there a scratchy French voice from a vintage radio. Foghorns sounding in the distance suggest the shipping forecasts that conclude late night U.K. radio transmissions, indicating gale-force winds in mysterious regions.

See a report of the Altogether Different festival in May 1999 Dance Magazine.