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Coyote Dancers Stress the Spiritual

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Coyote Dancers Stress the Spiritual

In four performances from Sept. 21-24 at Hunter College's Kaye Playhouse, Coyote Dancers, under the artistic direction of Maher Benham, offered three world premieres—"Invocation: The Monk's," "E.T. Deva," and "To the Night Goddess." Rounding out the program were the solo, "Maher, It's Donald," and "SIPAPU: The Land Where Your Eyes First Opened." All were choreographed by Ms. Benham and, as you can tell from the titles, all except the solo were concerned with ritual and the spiritual.

Judging solely from the stylized orange-red robes worn by the men, "Invocation" had the overall aura of Tibet. Still, the brisk ritual they performed seemed influenced in the main by African dance, with flourishes of the contemporary. Accompanying the dancers were two vigorous percussionists. No matter what the origins, we can only tell you that all the men involved—David Bartlett, Russell Bennett, Maximillian Davis, Russell Galloway, Lionel Gentle, Eric Hoag, Carter Jackson, Korey Knecht, and Andreas Wolfram, gave stirring performances.

"E.T. Deva" was an invocation to peace, with varied influences that included East Indian, Middle Eastern, and Oriental. The accompaniments consisted mainly of chants, the sound of light rain, and, later on, intrusive sounds, such as automobile horns and raucous voices, which seemed to be attempting to break into the sacred dances. The dancers, however, were immune to these. Almost in a hypnotic state, they seemed to be performing to inner voices, and the cacophony could not disturb them.

The performers were in lavish robes as they went through their paces. These were discarded to reveal them clothed in loose, flowing chiffon, which gave the proceedings an Isadora Duncan-ish appearance. When the chiffon costumes were discarded, the dancers performed in their undergarments. (Not to worry, even these were designed in good taste). To conclude, the dancers returned to their originally worn robes. They were blessed by a high priest and walked off, still trance like, with arms crossed against their chests. Jennifer Emerson, Dana Foglia, Kevin Jackson, Kevin Predmore, and Dudley Williams (yes, he is the much admired veteran dancer-teacher from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre), were the in-depth performers.

Dances for a moon goddess, a goddess of love, or any other cosmic deity could be the subject of "To the Night Goddess." We could also interpret paeans in dance by moon worshipers. There were no bacchanalian rites here. Visions of love, longing, and worship were obvious, but seemed somewhat fragmented. Nevertheless, the entire company performed some boundless patterns that were pleasing.

A great attraction was the costumes designed by Luigi Roncalli, who was also responsible for the luscious costumes seen in "E.T. Deva."

The one light piece on the program turned out to be Ms. Benham's solo, "Maher, It's Donald." A dancer rehearsing was beset by a rather chopped up telephone voice, constantly calling and unconvincingly telling her of his admiration, this despite the fact that he continually missed her performances. She was also haunted by voices that could be originating from barflies or partygoers, who were free with both insincere compliments and ridicule.

Through all these distractions, nothing kept her from her exercises, rehearsal, and generally doing her own thing. Some of her movements were reminiscent of Martha Graham, one of Ms. Maher's mentors, which was all to the good. Overall, Maher's strong solo indicated distractions and thoughts that may linger in the back of a dancer's mind, but can't keep her from fulfillment of her destiny.

The concluding "SIPAPU: The Land Where Your Eyes First Opened" was inspired by lines from the Bhagavad Gita. The choreographer-artistic director set herself an exceedingly difficult task, for few of the lines from that epic were clarified in the choreography. Still, Benham conceived some masterful forms for the augmented all-male cast, indicating that she is just as adept at creating for men as for women.

What was truly commendable was her utilization of older dancers in character roles, with Dudley Williams as The Visionary, and Ted Dalbotten and Eric Russell as The Sages. Mr. Dalbotten, age 78, is the oldest. We are told that he still works at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and studies movement improvisation with Margaret Beals. Bless his sturdy soul! And kudos to Benham for utilizing the services of elder performers, instead of getting by with merely sticking beards on young men.

Free Performances at 92nd St. Y

On Oct. 20, participants will be Richard Daniels, Dagmar Spain, and Netta Yerushalmy. Nov. 3 will see Randy James Dance Works, Heather Kravas, and Leah Kreutzer; Nov. 17 Jessica Nicoll, Barry Oreck, and Phyllis Lamhut team up. Wendy Blum and Raymundo Costa's contributions will also be presented.

Career Transition for Dancers

Career Transition for Dancers will hold its sixth annual "The Next Step Gala Benefit" on Oct. 16. The evening begins with a performance at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College featuring American Ballet's Theatre's Vladimir Malakhov, Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Buglisi-Foreman Dance, Cleveland-San Jose Ballet, and the Radio City Rockettes.

The performance will be followed by a dinner and auction at the Essex House, 160 Central Park South, NYC. Philanthropist Anne H. Bass and New York City Ballet's Ballet Master-in-Chief Peter Martins will be honored for their outstanding contributions to the world of dance. Benefit tickets are $1,000 and $500 each. For tickets call (212) 582-6690.

Established in 1985, Career Transition for Dancers provides scholarships and free career counseling services to professional dancers who must identify and pursue new careers once dancing is no longer an option. Since its founding, the organization has helped over 1,700 dancers.

COMING Together Fall 2000

Premiering with a benefit gala on Oct. 13 followed by performances on Oct. 14 and 15 at The Cunningham Studio, COMING Together will feature 11 new dance premieres by emerging choreographers, as well as dance by special guest choreographer Fred Benjamin.

Tickets: $15 general admission, and $10 for students on Oct. 14 and 15, at 8 pm. For the benefit gala performance-reception on Oct. 13, at 9 pm, tickets are $30. For further information call: (212) 645-5821.

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