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Monday, September 20, 2004

Doing the NW Proud: Scott/Powell 

Mary Sheldon Scott/Jarrad Powell Performance: Excerpts from Vessel
NWNW, Program 2


I never read the program before the performance starts. Maybe it’s because we seem to be getting to shows just as the lights are dimming.

But just now I’m reading that the the company, “evolved as a dialogue between composer Jarrad Powell and choreographer Mary Sheldon Scott.” This performance of excerpts from “Vessel” was a fine example of score and choreography informing, provoking, and elevating each other. Some soundtrack I saw this week felt arbitrary (Sundiata), some felt eye-rollingly, hammer-over-the-head obvious (Headlong), some was amateurish and irrelevant to the piece (Spugmotion). On the contrary, Powell’s score interacted with the movement in performance to suggest alternative layers of, I won’t say meaning, but content. It provided contrast, texture, and depth.

And although some of the local avant-dancers I respect felt that the movement was too dancerly, I appreciated the contrast generated by the movement phrases as discrete arcs, (literally often involving lifts), each with a clear beginning and ending: dancerly activity (ballet-based lifts and extensions) ending in the dancers washing the dance off of the body, executing aTrisha Brown release of dance body to simply stand or walk. The dancers moved with integrity, in a physically thoughtful manner, interacting with surface, prop, and one another.

This week, gaze, (it’s focus or more often lack thereof), and expression, (and it’s too frequently invasive/distracting presence in dance), have become important to my perception of work. In Akira Kasai’s workshop he had the dancers do an exercise in which they were to walk and then stop walking. When they stopped, they were to be aware of the feeling of being stopped. When they walked they were to be aware of the feeling of walking. Then he asked them to, “walk with a stop feeling.” The stop feeling (represented in a kind of stillness) in the face of local dancer/choreographer Kathleen Keough, for example, (TdR calls her a Rothko), invests all of her work with a delicious gravity. The dancers of the Scott/Powell company, (to my great relief after having seen other flawed work this week), nailed this stop feeling from the neck up even as their capable bodies executed a fine piece.

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