Copley's ambitious works crowd the Network's stage
By MARIANNE DANKS RUDNICKI
NEWS ARTS WRITER
Dance Theater 2 director J. Parker Copley thrives on moving large groups of dancers around a stage. But at the company's performance last weekend at Performance Network, he seemed intent on challenging the odds against fitting the proverbial quart into the pint bottle.
Three of his works presented on Friday night's Program A (different programs are presented on alternate nights) - "Clouds of the Unforgotten," "Souls" and "Under the Pavilion" - call for anywhere from five to 13 dancers on a stage that is best suited for four. Given the traffic problem, it was surprising that the only mishap was when one dancer got his arm caught in a wing panel. Both the company and Copley's work deserve better.
"Clouds of the Unforgotten" was clearly the success story of the evening. This rather cryptic work for five fits the troupe like a comfortable glove. Based on the cultural upheavals of the American Indian, the piece relies on ritualistic movement and blackouts that freeze tableau groupings in memory. Dancers gaze solemnly and longingly at the sky, but these people are in special communion with the earth.
The otherworldliness of "Souls" offers sharp contrast. Although 13 is a crowd on the Network stage, no matter how it is divided or subdivided, the theme of confined spirits helped make the situation more agreeable. Both the work's movement and music (a collage of six composers) conjure up a netherworld of suspended reality, that was inspired by the otherworldly visions of Dante and Bosch.
Wing panels were tied back to accommodate the cast of nine in Copley's "Under the Pavilion," a finger-snapping, foot-tapping summer party to music of the popular harpist Andreas Vollenweider. Dancers in white tank tops and shorts pace the stage, break into sambas and cha-chas, take turns being lifted aloft by friends. "Under the Pavilion's" refrain of summer charms would warm any brisk autumn night.
It's always a pleasure to see an old friend, and Sarah Megee Marten's "Down Under" was a company revival of importance. This 1979 work offers both dancers and audience a sense of DT2's historical continuity while providing the troupe a chance to stretch itself on a totally different choreographic aesthetic. Marten's work has a distinct rough-and-tumble energy that is lacking in Copley's more cerebral creations.
"Down Under" does have a pensive side (Martens was "under the weather" with an injury when she choreographed it), but it is couched between sections more expressive of the physicality and joy of dance. A human tower with flowing Buddha arms, constructed by the quartet of dancers, opens and closes the work. At one concert a few years ago, it was the dancers' childlike enthusiasm in the rebuilding of the tower (they were as anxious as the audience to see if they could do it) that invigorated the piece. Friday night's dancers were too serious and subdued in what is basically a let-your-hair-down work.
The company did justice to Marten's two-minute tribute to the Tigers, "Bless You Boys," danced by Copley, Laurice Hamp, Priscilla Lozon, James Moreno and Terri Lee Sarris. "Bless You" brims with all those razz-ma-tazz slides, catches and saves that we never tired of seeing this past season. And when slugger Copley steps up to bat, everyone knows that the team, and his company, can hardly lose.
DANCE THEATER 2
Dance Theater 2 presents the opening programs of its fall season at Performance Network, 408 W. Washington St. J. Parker Copley, artistic director; Laurice Hamp, assistant artistic director.
Program A will be repeated Saturday at 8 p.m. Program B will be presented Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Call 995-4242 or 663-0681 for information.