by Deborah Jowitt
Time and Again
Hilary Easton and Company
At Dance Theater Workshop
May 6 though 9
Hilary Easton’s choreography is spunky and shrewd. It has some contemporary shot-from-guns rambunctiousness, but Easton also has a knack for showing how attitude shapes movement. In her new solo, Beyond Her Grasp (to Mary Ellen Childs’ Oa Poa Polka, performed on the accordion by Guy Klucevsek), every gesture and shrug is precise and irritable; however she calculates, her dancing never gets her where she wants to be, and she keeps breaking off to walk away with a sour look. In Come Hither, Nancy Sakamoto is more vulnerable, a brave contestant at a Kafka-esque audition, at the mercy of a male voice and a female one who criticize, coo, “Oh, yes, that’s lovely!”; and give her directions that she doesn’t always hear or obey. Sakamoto, backing up, doggedly trying again, wears a tutu, but she prepares to show like an Olympic diver.
In Heat, Easton, who begins alone, and Barrie Raffel and Sakamoto, who join her, bend and preen in place. Together they show off, in slightly skewed unison. Easton seems to be dealing with the different sorts of heat—eroticism, contentiousness, the glare of performance—and Marco Beltrami’s score (commissioned under the American Dance Festival’s Young Composers and Choreographers Project) interweaves light Latin percussion, piano, and a high, husky woman’s voice. There’s a hint of peril, of physical obsession. While the men (Miles Everett and Rob Kitsos) Dance to rapid percussion, the women sashay in and out expectantly (aren’t those guys through yet?).
Sky Scraper (1993) is hillbilly Mozart, with rowdy grand right-and-lefts and face-your-partners, occasional hints of bovine placidity from the ladies, rough and tumble mischief (here I begin to notice that the business of butting a colleague with one’s head is something of an Easton mannerism). Ted Marks, Mark DeChiazza, and Linda Sastradipradja, a sassy little character in a red cap, join the others.
In the stranger Disappearance Act (music by Eve Beglarian), people stride around, pretending to stash things in pockets. Sakamoto subtly sabotages a duet between Raffel and her partner. Raffel takes up with another. Who drops dead. After everyone has pulled back in horror, Sakamoto coolly helps him up. At the end, people kiss goodbye and leave Raffel alone, wondering, like us, what has happened.
I find myself wishing the texture of each dance were more unlike that of every other, but I like Easton’s succinctness, frank energy, wit, and craftsmanship.