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Imaginative Scaffolding

Harvard-Radcliffe Dance Company last weekend at Agassiz Theater.

By Susan A. Manning

STUDENT CONCERTS are appropriate places for student critics, for the blunders of both young performers and reviewers can be excused as necessary learning experiences. Watching the Harvard-Radcliffe Dance Company I realized that sensitive choreography is not so much a matter of how movement is structured as how the qualities of individual performers are brought out through movement. It isn't technique that's the issue, but imagination.

I especially liked Howard Fine's "Gladfall," a short solo that makes use of a broad range of dynamics--the studio formula for good choregraphy--to abstract Fine's highly specific performing persona, a match of sprite and white-face clown--something no studio could ever teach.

Fine's presence is more overt in Elizabeth Lurie's "A Garden Romance," a sequence of theatrical actions built with a dance momentum. Fine is the groom to Ann DiFruscia's bride, and the imaginative scaffolding of theri romance turns on an old-fashioned stand-up bathtub. It sounds gimmicky, but is not; on the contrary, it is the sort of fantasy dance best sustains.

DiFruscia offered a more everyday sort of fantasy, "3 Distances and 12 Words (Part II)," for dancers, vido and film. I'm not sure what effect the media contribute to the work. The video sets hardly command one's attention, and the taped narrative leaves a vague impression beside the vividness of the dance action. (Words with dance are curious--the way words make sense springs from a rhythm so different from the logic of dance that they pass by like soap-opera dialogue, which probably is half their purpose.) In the second section, with the projection equipment shut off, the three dancers begin to emerge as distinct personalities: Connie Chin flirts with a fold-up chair, Tom Krusinky with a push skooter, and Lise Newcomer with her own silk dressing gown.

A different side of Newcomer comes out in Nina Weiner's "Eliza's Rhythm." Following the easy jazz shuffles of Sally Greenhouse, Christie Blazo and Elizabeth S-Wilderson--all looking superbly professional in Weiner's choreography--Newcomer's solo section hits the floor on the downbeat whereas the others soar with the upbeat. This sort of subtle difference in expression is possible only when dancers have technique to throw away.

The performance was of high quality, an impressive effort carried through by a handful of students. I don't know who is responsible, or whom to congratulate: Elizabeth S-Wilderson and Martha Urann, choreographers of yet another piece, Lise Newcomer; artistic director Claire Mallardi; or the dancers from outside the undergraduate community. Then again, the energy of performance isn't something any one individual creates.

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