Clare Ives and Sally Cohn in "Can you read me now?": Photos by Ralph Stewart
Clare Ives (left) and Sally Cohn in "Can you read me now?" discard cell phones in favor of books. Photos by Ralph Stewart

Dancers at their best

By Julian Wise - March 23, 2006

The 2006 Choreographer's Workshop Performance by Vineyard Dance delivered what audiences have come to expect from the artists: a wide panoply of individual creative visions brought to life by a troupe of seasoned and dedicated dancers and choreographers. Under the deft touch of director Bill Costanza, the dozen dancers blended their talents to create a rich artistic experience.

In the opening piece "The Dancers Prepare," the audience was introduced to the performing artists. Weit Bacheller, Nancy Hugger-Bettencourt, Sandy Broyard, Sally Cohn, Kathy Joyce Costanza, Sioux Eagle, Fae Kontje-Gibbs, Clare Ives, Kanta Lipsky, Michelle Pikor, Peggy Koski Schwier, and Cathy Weiss moved through a series of warmup movements to the percussive rhythms of Mickey Hart.

"Motional Journey," by Sandy Broyard, featured Mses. Broyard, Hugger-Bettencourt, Cohn, Ives, Pikor, and Schwier enacting several polarities (confrontation and cooperation, attraction and repulsion) against a trancelike, droning soundscape composed by Jesse Manno. "In The Wild," by Peggy Koski Schwier, featured herself with Mses. Ives and Eagle moving like three sylvan nymphs by a wooded spring. The three danced with music-box-like precision to Alan Hovhaness's music, all of them garbed in blue like a swift springtime brook. The movements struck a fine balance between technical proficiency and sheer grace.

Kathy Joyce Costanza's "City Square - 7 am - 11 pm - 7 am": Photo by Ralph Stewart
Kathy Joyce Costanza's "City Square - 7 am - 11 pm - 7 am" portrays urban hustle/bustle to a tee.
"Missing," a solo piece by Cathy Weiss, used the simple set pieces of a mattress and coat rack to create a montage reminiscent of a vintage silent film. Ms. Weiss, dressed in black, crafted playful and wistful movements that created a bittersweet sense of loss and longing as she used a jacket and hat to indicate the presence of a missing beloved. Ms. Cohn's "Ode" featured dancers in blue-and-white outfits moving like plant fronds undulating underwater, with some standing and others prone on the floor. The dancers then united on stage for an elegant pastiche of spins and balletic gestures resplendent with birth imagery.

Clare Ives's "Can You Read Me Now?" was a skillfully crafted vignette of streetside theater, with dancers pantomiming reading books on benches and conversing on cell phones nearby, complete with spotty reception and text messaging. The blend of pantomime and deft dance movements created a lively, whimsical mood. "City Square," by Kathy Joyce Costanza, set the stage for a more futuristic street scene out of a technotopia of crowded subways and bustling street corners. Mses. Bacheller, Hugger Bettencourt, Broyard, Cohn, Costanza, Eagle, Ives, Pikor, Schwier, and Weiss matched pneumatic moves to a techno beat to enact scenes of urban anomie, homelessness, and existential exhaustion.

Nancy Hugger Bettencourt's "Tenderness," a duet featuring herself and Ms. Broyard, began with silent expressions of rage and anguish between the two dancers before blending, their movements reflecting the piano notes, into a lyrical duet. At moments the dancers seemed lost in their own inner realms before coming together in sisterly unity.

"Fading Green," by Michelle Pikor, featured Ms. Cohn as Land, Ms. Eagle as Planet Earth, Mses. Ives and Pikor as Water, and Ms. Schwier as Air. Against the backdrop of a lively soundscape by Gorillaz, the dancers crafted images of earth cringing beneath the malevolent sprites of pollution before boldly emerging to wave the elements into unified, triumphant movements.

"Spiraling Continuum," choreographed by Sioux Eagle, featured herself and Mses. Hugger Bettencourt, Broyard, Eagle, Ives, Pikor, and Schwier garbed in purple dresses with purple waistbands. The dancers made swift, agile circular motions against a backdrop of Middle Eastern percussion beats. The controlled, sensual tempo of the piece reached a crescendo with the dancers spinning like female dervishes.

The evening's finale, Ms. Hugger Bettencourt's "W.W.W.," featured the entire cast of dancers dressed in whimsical insect costumes. Spiders climbed against a projected web background while a parade of butterflies and other assorted insects marched, jumped, and twirled across the stage to a jaunty pan flute composition by Ian Anderson. This delightful piece of naturalist theater was a marvelous end to an inspiring celebration of the creative spirit as expressed through the magic of movement.

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.