“Stranger” Gets an A

Big Range Dance Festival 2009 — Program A

Andee Scott / photo by Simon Gentry
Andee Scott / photo by Simon Gentry

On Big Range Dance Festival’s opening night, I Am Stranger was a stand-out. The piece, conceived and directed by Jeanine Durning, is one of five works commissioned by solo-performer, Andee Scott for her project Woman’s Work: Reconstructions of Self. Austin was treated to the performance in its entirety last year. However, with an amendable structure, I doubt any two stagings of this segment are exactly alike.

The work explores themes of location, presence, and self. Movement vignettes are set among cameras that toss Scott’s image between video monitors like a game of catch. She endears herself to the audience, flawlessly pulling off a series of self-effacing and witty monologues. Her account of burning “the organ that covers her entire body” on a “box used to heat nutritious substances that people eat” is deliciously clever. And, Scott is laugh-out-loud funny as she makes dedicated attempts to trace her own body. Though clearly the least “dance-y” of the program’s offerings, I Am Stranger is the one viewers went home talking about.

Kristen Frankiewicz’s self-choreographed I’m So Alone is as informal and youthful as the contraction in its title. She is charming and unassuming. And, though the dance seems trapped in its linear pathway across stage, rapid-fire articulations and floor work showcase Frankiewicz’s fluid strength.

Scatterplot presents Leslie Scates and four student performers in an improvisational score. Earnest and committed, the performers (with the exception of Scates herself) simply lack the improvisational experience and the technical mastery of the more experienced dancers on the bill, making the whole work feel out-of-place. Jeremy Choate’s skill at lighting wasn’t enough to hold the scattered arrangement together.

Toni Leago Valle’s Baptism exhibits a trio of strong female performers, Lindsey McGill, Nicole McNeil, and Brittany Wallis. Valle always surprises with inventive devices. Water flings from the dancers limbs and hair after they’ve doused themselves onstage. It’s cool but treacherous. After two slippery missteps by the dancers, who recovered well despite conditions, my attention wandered from choreography to casualty.

Also on the program, were sneak previews of upcoming fall performances. Jane Weiner’s work, Village of Waltz incorporates the most lyrical segments of Eno’s Music for Airports and an assemblage of other ambient compositions. The dancers tread on books like stepping stones. It’s an elusive image. Will it be more defined in the whole of the work? Dancer, Lindsey McGill shines brightest in this segment. Her lengthy solo demands challenging sequences entirely en relevé and includes more than one lingering arabesque. She captivates with a girlish, yet melancholy, innocence.

Philip, Philip Glass, Philip Glass Glass Glass, Philip Philip Glass. The minimalist composer is a favorite of choreographers but Becky Valls crafts a kinetic equivalent in Territory. The dancers, including Valls herself, draw circular lines and boundaries which are crossed, entered, and over-stepped. As the perimeters become more linear, we see Valls take the reins as border control, literally painting her dancers into a corner. An excerpt of Valls’ Memoirs of the Sistahood: Chapter Two, this study on defining space satisfyingly completes a thought.

The Big Range Dance Festival continues through June 14, 2009.  For more information, contact Barnevelder Theatre at 713/529-1819 or visit www.bigrange.org

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston

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Nichelle

Nichelle balances careers as a dancer, instructor, writer, and mother. She is a seasoned performer whose strength lies in bringing dramatic

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