Backstage
The Performing Arts Weekly

May 26–June 1, 2000

Mimi Garrard Dance Theatre

Reviewed by Lisa Jo Sagolla

Self-presented at Theatre of the Riverside Church,
121st St. & Claremont Ave., NYC, May 18–21.

“Ravishing” is the word — the word that describes every aspect of Mimi Garrard Dance Theatre’s 35th-anniversary performance at Theatre of the Riverside Church.

The retrospective program’s centerpiece is the recreation of choreographer Mimi Garrard’s groundbreaking 1970 work Phosphones, the first piece to use composer Emmanuel Ghent’s computer system that synchronizes lighting cues with a musical score. As Ghent bounces illumination around the stage, on and amongst the performers, we begin to perceive the light as another “dancer” in Garrard’s Nikolais-esque creation. While the somewhat dehumanized bodies move as abstract forms in light and dark space, to the blips an boings of Ghent’s electronic score, the effects are truly breathtaking.

Resplendently lit throughout the rest of the evening by John Evans, Garrard’s dancers perform her delectable choreography with polished articulation. Guest artist Anne Marie Crisanto is entrancing in the alluring opening solo of Mythos, a premiere, danced to a savory, pulsating score performed live by its composer, Dawn Buckholz (voice and cello), and percussionist Tom McGrath. Crisanto uses strong, percussive actions to impel Garrard’s phrases of fresh and original vocabulary that soften into the body’s natural curves and unwind into beautiful endpoints.The dance is fed by, but not imitative of, the rhythms of the music; the movements acknowledge the music but end and re-start as dictated by kinesthetic flow. As the piece progresses, an ensemble (dressed in gorgeous turquoise and lavender unitards) decorates the space and embodies the music’s lulling qualities with sculptural grace.

The appealingly pert energy of dancer Steffany George stands out among the fine quartet (including Laurie Bulman, Erin Dudley, and David M. Sharp) who dance Night Traffic. These restless sleepers are overtaken with the inner turmoils that plague one’s mind during slumber. Their body shapes, however, indicate curiosity, an openness to the disturbing forces, and a willingness to embrace and understand their anxieties. They’re not fearful of the darkness.

The program is completed by Joplin Suite, a lighthearted audience-pleaser reviewed by this critic last season.


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