Reviewed by Lisa Jo Sagolla
Presented by Bradford Olson and Warren Spielberg at New York Performance Works, 128 Chambers St., NYC, Aug. 18-19.
To recreate Isadora Duncan's choreography for today's audiences is a terrifyingly tricky task; it is all too easy to appear hokey, simplistic, and foolish. The valiant effort by Rina Rinkewich's Return of the Sun Dance Company to reconstruct four of Duncan's works, in a showing at New York Performance Works, fell short of the mark. Too much "acting" was imposed upon the dancing. Instead of achieving expressiveness by finding the feelings within Duncan's movements, Rinkewich's dancers layered artificial affect atop the choreography. The effect was that of sprinkling powdered sugar on a piece of fudge.
The performance of the sportive "Dance of the Cherubim" was driven, not by the playfulness of its kinetics, but by a forced merriment manufactured by the dancers. "Slow Mazurka" revealed Rosita Roldan as the only dancer in the troupe able to convincingly evoke emotion through movement. Though Allison Courtenay offered an attractive interpretation of the flowing solo "Water Study," the beauty of her dancing derived from a balletic dynamic, lending a classical clarity to her performance that felt somewhat at odds with Duncan's commitment to kinesthetic naturalism.
The company was most successful in its rendition of "The Dance of the Furies," an exciting ensemble work full of raised and pounding fists, dramatic falls to the floor, bounding sautés, and lots of energetic charging en masse across the stage. For these dancers, revivifying Duncan's powerful revolutionary sensibilities proved less difficult than recapturing her elusive lyrical allure. Yet one must wonder why, in a city abounding with talented dancers hungry to perform, Rinkewich has collected a company of less than first-rate performers.
The evening also included two group works choreographed by Rinkewich: the derivative, Duncan-esque "Wing Song," and "Honey In My Hands," an unremarkable amalgamation of '70s moves danced to live folk-rock music (composed by Peira Moinester) that took us on a mellow journey back to earthier, non-techno times. Choreographer Emily Goodman's "En Route," an active trio accompanied by a wonderfully lazy, jazz- and country-influenced instrumental score by Angelo Badalamenti, completed the program.