Monday, March 30, 2009

This and that about ThiStHat

Caitlin Corbett's "Five or Six Things."

I spent Friday evening checking out "ThiStHat Show No. 2," a compendium of dance, poetry and music curated by local choreographic light Daniel McCusker at Green Street Studios. The evening was intended to operate as a kind of postmodern salon, and it had its charms, although these never cohered into any particular statement or stance. On the other hand, the program notes warned that the artists on tap focused "on process," which is almost always a bad sign; yet McCusker never allowed the proceedings to bog down into the self-indulgence that sometimes dogs that attitude. Things remained generally loose and light on their feet, and if you didn't like the current act, well, you soon realized that the next one was going to be quite different.

There was a sense that the evening was meant to frame its mix of emerging and established choreographic talent in what McCusker called "context" - which seemed to mean poems by local poet Edison Dupree, piano works by Tufts professor John McDonald, and projections by artist/designer John Kramer. But while McCusker's idea of embedding choreography in a suite of other art forms is probably a good one, this time around "this" didn't seem to have anything to do with "that." Still, Kramer's projections, particularly a po-faced contemplation of tombstones, were surprisingly affecting, and Dupree had at least one striking poem to offer, "To a Beetle on its Back." But McDonald's lightly challenging modernist pieces for piano all sounded remarkably similar, despite titles as widely ranging as "Emergency Street Sound" and "The Hedgehog;" they seemed divorced from the general mood yet not strong enough to establish their own profile.

Of the choreographers, the youngest, surprisingly enough, fared best. Phania Exavier's "Half Self" was a little rough in performance, but still evidenced the choreographer's clear talent for lyrical pattern and form, while Adriane Brayton's more accomplished duet, "And Then There Were Two," scampered energetically along the line between bemusement and melancholy (and was performed with sweet theatricality by Kiefer Roberts and Khadija Griffith). Meanwhile Megan Schenk's solo, "Arms and Sleepers," (this was its premiere) had a smart, quirky vibe but didn't seem to really get anywhere, and the excerpts from Nicole Pierce's "Requiem" simply felt strange; the movement seemed either literal or opaque by turns. The evening wrapped with "Five or Six Things," a touching take on romantic dysfunction from Caitlin Corbett, a veteran of the local choreographic scene (the piece itself was from 2004, the only dance on the program not new or in process). Ms. Corbett's ruefully understated skill shone through the connections - and separations - of the work's compressed emotional history, and the piece was performed with gentle sadness by Kaela Lee and Victor Tiernan. But you don't have to take my word for it; you can judge for yourself from the video above.

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