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Dangerously low current 

Choreo Collective's latest collection looks largely tapped out

So much of the finest in regional modern dance and choreography was in Hanes Auditorium at Chapel Hill High School last Saturday night--in the audience, in the wings and on the playbill, listed in the production staff for Choreo Collective's Current Collection. Thus the inconvenient but crucial question remains: Why was so little of it actually on stage?

click to enlarge One of the brighter moments: Ashley Condons Egress at Choreo Collective - PHOTO BY AARON SANDLER

While we have seen some engaging experimental work in other Choreo-led functions in recent years, Current Collections, a series of annual spring showcases summing up the group's yearly achievements, have slowly, steadily dwindled into increasingly permissive anthologies of technical mediocrity and alarmingly diminishing artistic vision.

Despite momentary flashes in both acts, this collection continues the downward trend in levels of artistic standards and curation we've previously noted.

Nor need longtime dancegoers take my word for it. A quick consultation of the group's own Web site (www.choreocollective.org), under the "Previous Collections" tab, will bring to mind the group's achievements in 2001 through 2003. That memory alone should reinforce the distance the group has effectively retreated since then.

Should that not suffice, there is other, copious evidence to be found in the achievements that company artists, including company co-director Bridget Kelly and member K. Rain Leander, are currently enjoying--in relationships outside this company. Leander, a promising young artist, was conspicuous in her absence on stage last weekend. Kelly, so moving in Laura Thomasson's recent work, was barely a whisper in one work the whole evening.

 

In their absence, timid leaps, timid explorations, timid lifts, timid lunges, timid weight sharing and timid commitment fundamentally plagued the otherwise interesting concept in Nancy Simpson Carter's Gameplay (though the concept blurred at the end), and Sectioned, a work of student choreography not yet ready for public display.

Before them, Amy Beth Schneider's Vendetta lingered at first on the usual gray, depressive, internal emotional palette, and the fairly pedestrian lifts, cantilevers and low-to-ground weight sharing that's characterized most of her duet work with Susan Quinn to now. Accelleration in the mid-section did give this work drama, before inert hugs, lethargy and the insidious floor reclaimed a duet returned to deadlock at the end.

These largely internal, all-but-seamless scuttlings and striated negotiations between characters on silent sea-bed floors are unarguably Schneider's greatest achievement up to now as a choreographer. They have also become, I believe, a crutch which must immediately be broken.

We will encourage choreographer and dancer Ashley Condon, even though her solo, Egress, doesn't merely flirt with melodrama--it practically elopes with it and jets off for a quickie wedding down in Reno. At the start, her character stands in vintage clothing at the back left corner of the stage, clutching an equally vintage suitcase. She puts it down--and then lunges to the right. Her right arm and leg are both flung out, reaching toward home, we suppose, as she gazes toward the forbidden, darkened opposite corner of the stage.

Our first temptation actually is to laugh at such a pneumatic gesture--but at least there's no problem with commitment in this dance. A series of sharply executed, technically challenging (but dangerously overinflated) gestures bring us the exaggeration--but not yet the truth, alas--of a young woman, clearly torn between going and staying someplace.

With an overshoot (and technique) this radical, the choreographer may now pull back in to find a more honest representation of leaving--or spin further out, if she wishes to embrace satire, and rib the conventions of a work about leaving home. Her character's fate is in her hands.

E-mail Byron at bwoods@indyweek.com.

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