Dance Magazine Review of Dance Alloy Theater's Fragile

Dance Alloy Theater
The New Hazlett Theater
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
April 13-16, 2007
Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Pittsburgh’s Dance Alloy Theater has presented a number of memorable dance works in its 31-year history. Perhaps none however has been more powerful and moving, as Donald Byrd’s “No Consolation,” which premiered in April as part of DAT’s riveting program Fragile.

The first chapter in a multi-part national project concerning human stories cut short entitled the Interrupted Narrative, Bryd’s “No Consolation” was a graphic account of humans processing grief.

Wooden folding chairs sat arranged around three sides of an otherwise bare stage as five dancers (3 women, 2 men) one after another walked to the front of the stage and began muttering in whispered tone accounts of personal tragedy. Adopting anguished and despondent facial expressions, the dancers began what would be a gut-wrenching insight into the disintegration of will. Dancing to a score of traditional Irish music, the ensemble let loose an outpouring of Irish Step Dance-influenced movement that was taken to violent and exhaustive extremes, causing some to collapse to the floor, slump into another’s embrace or recede into a hunched position on a chair.

Masterfully crafted and danced with uncompromising passion and genius by DAT’s dancers, the work captured the very essence of shattered lives. Particularly convincing was the performance of Stephanie Dumaine whose inconsolable character fully inhabited her as she pushed away efforts by partner Michael Walsh to comfort her, leveling the brunt of her blame and guilt for the loss of their child in pounding fists and a malicious slap to Walsh’s face.

Preceding Byrd’s work was Susan Marshall’s signature duet “ARMS” (1984). Set to a tension-filled original score by Luis Resto, dancers Scott Lowe and Maribeth Maxa tightly bonded to each other curling hands and arms around the napes of necks and cradling head and cheeks. Marshall’s choreography for “ARMS” cut sharply between the soft giving in of flesh and soul and the forceful lashing out of emotional hunger and disdain.

Fragile closed with DAT artistic director Beth Corning’s “Flight”, a lively migration of undulating modern dance movement meant to suggest birds on the wing. Costumed in rumpled white linen with long trains of fabric, DAT’s five dancers looked to be challenging the bonds of gravity as they swept over and leapt off of two wooden ramps. At times some paused to teeter at ramp’s edge or in the case of dancer Adrienne Misko, to cling precariously suspended on top of a ramp turned upright, exemplifying life’s tenuous nature born out in each of Fragile’s dance works.

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