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Morse's 'Peaceworks' confirms that subtlety is the best policy

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Morse's 'Peaceworks' confirms that subtlety is the best policy




“Peaceworks,” at the Performance Network Friday and Saturday nights, was billed as a concert in celebration of spring, Easter and Passover, but it was more than that.

It was an artistic coming-of-age party for local dancer/choreographer Kathy Gantz Morse who just a few years ago had been advised to forget dance because, starting at age 25, she was too old. In the first full evening of her own work, Morse proved the advisers wrong as “Peaceworks,” simply and without fanfare, offered many rich variations on the peace theme.

Proving again that subtlety is the best policy, the success of the evening was found not among the more overt “peace ” statements but rather in the implied tranquility of “Windtones.”

Premiered at this concert and performed by Jean McGregor-Wiles to the gentle sounds of Andreas Vol-lenweider, “Windtones” is in a class by itself. Rarely is so harmonious a balance struck between dancer and the dance as is achieved by McGregor-Wiles in this haunting work, performed as a solo at Friday evening’s concert. She sculpts the airwaves with a solid technique that gives the gentle dance a surprising strength. In a series of chainee turns, the dancer is like a leaf blown in a gentle whirlwind. In forward lunges and their retracting sways, she is buffeted by an unseen breeze, a robust reed blowing in a prevailing wind.

It was difficult for anyone who lived through the times that Morse recounts in “Confessions of a Former Dancer” to be unmoved. Many compelling images surface from Morse’s personal recollections as well as from the collective memory of life in post-World War II America.

A little girl lies in her bed listening to her father, a ham radio operator, talk to people in faraway places like Argentina or Norway, and an awareness of a world beyond her hometown is born. The personal events of the day John Kennedy died recall an event so etched in the American psyche that there is no one who cannot recall exactly where he or she was then. Demonstrators singing “Give peace a chance” converge on Washington to protest the Vietnam War and the unrest of the era surfaces unbidden.

“Poem Suite” is based on five poems, some exotic but all accessible, that weld word to movement. The most beautiful is “Song,” by an Eskimo shaman named Uvavnuk, lovely in its simple statement of an inner joy found in nature. Brenda Miller Slomovits’ performance of the poem in sign language, while it is simultaneously translated by Morse, is compelling in the economy of movement that this other silent language employs.

“The men voted for fire that they thought they could control .. . and blackened stumps . . . and no more elections.” A dance based on Leonard Nathan’s “The Election,” a indictment of the arms race, and one of the few pointed political statements in the concert, often lent itself, like a few of the other poems in “Poem Suite,” to an excessively literal translation into movement.

Despite the general outlines the performers set before they begin, anything can happen in an improvisation and usually does. Morse and Susan Creitz’s “From the Treehouse,” based on games of child play, started off and ended auspiciously enough, but got bogged down in the middle for lack of a strong dramatic impulse. Creitz, always at home on stage, can make things look good even when they are going poorly; Morse is less adept at the art.


Kathy Gantz Morse presented "Images in Dance. Word. Music." Friday and Saturday evenings at Performance Network. Performers included Morse. Susan Creitz. Jean McGregor-Wiles. Teal Miller. Brenda Miller Slomovits. Barbara Wood.