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Bodies Liquefy in Harvard Grad's 'Snappy Crayons' Sequel


If it were possible for the human body to become liquid and gain the ability to be poured into and around other objects, it might look something like the dancers in the new dance company Snappy Productions. "Snappy Crayons Strikes Back," the follow-up to last year's "Snappy Crayons and Other New Dances," was choreographed under the direction of Harvard graduate George Whiteside '96 and Martha Mason in a style that emphasizes unique kinesthetic movement over formalized technique.

Incorporating this style throughout the performance reveals the true depth of creativity and talent in the dancers. The segment "Accordion To You," in which two people fight over a piece of toast while an accordion is played in the background, has a more of a skit-like quality than some of the other segments. The movement here, while just as impressive, is more playful and calls on the performers to be actors as well as dancers. "Limning Twilight," in contrast to "Accordion To You," is slower and more expressive. The choreography is not as much playful as it is polished and deliberate. Still, the dancers twist and climb over and around each other with effortless fluidity, giving off an impression of weightlessness.

In the second act, "Duet," performed by Martha Mason and George Whiteside, highlights the ability of this extremely talented cast. Like "Limning Twilight," "Duet" is more expressive.

Mason and Whiteside move separately from each other, but are so aware and in tune with each other that it is as if they are one entity occasionally separated into two bodies, only to recombine in a mesh of arms and legs. They perform with a consistent ease calculated to provoke audible astonishment from the audience, beginning to end.

The flow of energy that runs through the show is seemingly endless: after nearly an hour and a half of strenuous physical activity the dancers are still well able to bounce and contort their bodies impressively in the jazzy segment, "Peas." Bright green costumes, upbeat music by the Ohio Players, and creative, challenging movements conclude the show in a final display of the grace and power that make up the Snappy Productions company.

Students at Harvard will have a chance this year to experience and learn from George Whiteside in person, as the 1997-98 Peter Ivers Visiting Artist. The Ivers Visiting Artist is an artist, selected by the Office of the Arts, who challenges assumptions and who demonstrates what Peter Ivers '68 called a "raw, energized sensibility." Whiteside will offer two workshops, beginning in late October, stressing passion and fostering an "anything goes" atmosphere. As in his "Snappy Crayons" productions, Whiteside will emphasize physical discipline over formal training.

While "Snappy Crayons Strikes Back" could be categorized as modern dance, that term carries too much of an abstract, artsy connotation to describe the performance. Comical facial expressions and short story lines inject Whiteside's production with a theatrical feel that leaves the audience not only amazed at the physical dexterity of the dancers, but also thoroughly entertained. It is better labeled, then, as the company calls it: dance theater. "Snappy Crayons Strikes Back" plays not to just coffeehouse poets, but to anyone who likes a good laugh and a spectacular show.

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