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REVIEW: 'MONUMENTS'

Art Snob Blog

Amy Seiwert has been touted as one of the most promising up-and-coming choreographers on the west coast. On Friday, Anchorage dance fans could judge for themselves as Alaska Dance Theatre premiered her latest work, "Monuments," as part of its "Intersections" program.

In the program notes, Seiwert suggested that the work was a "reflection" of the monumental landscapes of Alaska. She used lethargic, minimalist music by cellist Hildur Gudnadottir that she called, "the perfect manifestation of the north's tremendous terrain."

That's about as accurate as saying Seiwert's choreography was a commentary on the economic crisis in Cyprus and the response to it by the European Union's Central Bank. In fact it's abstract work, as she notes, where the forms and imagery imply no narrative.

But the slow motion moves matched the music in a way that was almost hypnotic and was certainly graceful, with several moments of surprise and beauty. "Monuments" opened with the company of eight dancers in something of a mound, with one man standing above the rest, raising his arms. The initial impression was chaos, but they quickly split into couples and what followed was notably formal.

In ADT's "Cash and Cline" show a few weeks ago, Elizel Long dominated the rest of the cast. Here, however, the ensemble was the star. Even when Long and Barry Kerollis had the spotlight in the First Movement, one was drawn to the precision of the other three couples in their matched movements and poses.

Among the vivid gestures that recurred were a move in which a male dancer lifted a female dancer from behind, her arms and legs stiff and at right angles from the body, as if she were sitting in a chair. At one point the women stood like rods while the men made hoops with their arms that they lowered vertically by bending their knees; I was reminded of someone playing a theramin, an antique electronic instrument whose sound was somewhat suggested by Gudnadottir's cello. Yet another gesture involved performers holding their hands at mouth-height, spaced about a foot apart, as if playing pan pipes or maybe a chromatic harmonica. 

One felt something profound in the piece, but I fear the most tenacious feeling may be one of tedium engendered in no small part by the music. That "Monuments" was not entirely demolished by it is probably due to the choreographer's inventive talent and the fact that she stopped her piece before it went on too long.

Gillmer Duran's "Tyranny of the Senses" went too long, however. This was not new work, having been seen at the "Intersections" concert in April 2011. (Read the review here.) At that time I found it "enduring." A review in the Eugene, Ore. Register-Guard later that year said it needed editing. That reviewer was right, I was wrong. But Long's presence in the Duran work was, again, galvanizing if not outstanding in a troupe that is all quite good. 

The "Intersections" program will be presented once again at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available at centertix.net. 

 Meanwhile, at UAA, the annual "New Dances" concert with 50 performers is presenting ten brand new pieces of choreography, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday through April 21.

 


MIKE DUNHAM
Anchorage