Two Women Dancing at the Santa Fe Playhouse, March 6, 2010

by Janet Eigner

Each one of the Two Women Dancing concerts has evolved from the last in a more interesting way.  It is Santa Fe’s loss that Kate Eberle decided this concert would be her last performance in the duet company, co-founded by the two modern dancers, Julie Brette Adams and Eberle in 2004.  This six year run has earned respect.

The concert opened a nearly hypnotic through-theme, just two dancers saying goodbye, moving on and off the stage in a flow of solos and duets, with very brief pauses, enough for the audience to catch its aesthetic breath and the dancers to rearrange their costumes twice, but with such subtly shifted design that only those quite attentive to gray and black leotards and cumberbunds would have noticed the changes.  Each dance expressed a different mood related to the artists’ relationship, though each work could be seen as a finished dance in itself.

Three of the works were choreographed by Kiki Jadus, the associate artistic director, two by Adams and Eberle, one by Adams, Eberle and Jefferson Vorhees, one by Adams and Lindsay Mayo, and one by Eberle, adapting a previous work, Freakshow that Curtis Uhlemann choreographed in 2006.   Of the eight dances, six were premieres.

The concert was well- supported by Jefferson Voorhees’s all-around skill set, especially sound design and live percussion, and Skip Rapoport, lighting designer.  The lights were subtle and just enough, leaning to the dim side, aiding the silky transitions from one work to the next.  The Playhouse seats were filled with a rapt audience.

Adams inhabits her movement work with a clean modern vocabulary that includes some jazz moves.  The intensity of her facial expression complements her movement so that the audience can know her emotional mood.  She has a wide, expressive palette.

Over the six years, Eberle has become much more emotionally expressive, melding mood with movement, so that she as well as Adams are fully present in their performances.  Eberle’s movement includes modern and yogic vocabulary, with dollops of  jazz and martial arts moves.

“Yatra,” the opening duet, showed the women walking away and toward each other, sometimes in simultaneous moves, some complementary, some languorous, many extended, slow and crouching, with pleased and joyful interactions, soft, modern and airy.  The cellos of Joan Jeanrenaud’s music gave a poignant and lovely feel to this introduction.

A woman’s dusky voice accompanies “Turn,” a duet with sharper quicker moves, still introspective, with many long-limbed moves, a duet of Shiva-like multiple arms, darting starts, undulating arms and crisp angles. The movements looked as though the artists were signaling each other using sign language, sending some frenzied intense messages. The lighting warmed the dancers’ sleeveless arms as they concluded this section gazing at each other.

Eberle danced the next section, “Opt. 1″ in silence, though a cello helped the transition from “Turn” into this work. She worked a semi circle, used her long limbs to swing and hit at her torso, moved up and down onto and from the floor, silkely, powerfully.  A spiraling rise and fall, a jog that revved up to full speed, and she disappeared at the back of the black curtain that served as scrim and mysterious divider between the dances.

Adams reappeared from behind that scrim in “Heart Dancing Open”, with the divine harmonies of the Beatles singing “Because” to a joyful whirling, playful, skipping work that transitioned to a gentle, acapella Spanish song by Ana Lains while the moves expressed the delicacy of the song, interspersed with small elbows thrusts, though the choreography got repetitious.

“Euclid’s Whim” brought the duo to a metal climbing apparatus that allowed both dancers to etch geometric lines over, under and around each other on novel angles.  As the light dimmed, the silver tubing shone in contrast to their warmly lit flesh.  Along with the music of Michael Gordon, Vorhees’ backstage sheet metal percussion and the intense, contemporary sound of cello strings energized the slow, deliberate movements about the double rectangles.

“Opt  2″   Continued the cello’s sound, the cello’s bow now bouncing across its strings.  Adams in a rectangle of light bounced the heel of her hand off her forehead.  This introspective solo brought her to sit on her knees in silence, and restrict her movement to small, intermittent changes: to circle her head, undulate her torso, flex her hands, but only rise and walk away slowly.

“Dreamfire,” Eberle’s explosive solo to music by Devotchka, showed a disciplined wildness, an unhinged and terrific capacity to express a number of intense feelings, driven, maybe by the grief of loss.  Eberle’s lively and akimbo, quick movements became spellbinding; she held her hands over her face as a male voice wailed his music that led to an over-the-top tango.  She thrust and undulated her torso, spoofing tango, clutched at herself in a big hug, used odd, spastic moves to the music’s percussive rhythm, and stirred a sense of scare and risk when her twitching, lunging movements looked barely under control.  The music of a street organ backed her slide to the ground; then, with one finger, she sat herself back up. The vistas of her outstretched arms and sudden twitching again embraced the air as an accordion deepened her sense of release and grief.

The last work, “Separate,” had the duo pacing the stage, like wonderful Charlie Chaplins on drugs.  Eberle sat down, close to the edge of the stage, with her back to the audience.  After a long silence, without music, the synthesized pulsing of Devotchka backed the pair.  Adams put her hands over her face, the through movement in this concert as the accordion pulsed a repetitive chorus.  Both women rose and knelt on one knee with chin-to-knee; lyrics filled in a tale of leaving. “You already know how this will end,” sang a man, as the dancers used big, outstretched, sustained moves, one set resembling a sun asana, as the two bowed to each other.  Each faced an opposite side of the stage and exited to the high register of violins.

The deep respect, love, celebration and sadness about the end of their several years performing together showed through movement the dancers deeply felt, so that, rather than looking or feeling sentimental, the concert touched a resonant chord in the responsive audience.

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