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Gabrielle Lansner & Company: Holocaust Stories

It is said that art is in the eye of the beholder. So, then, is choreography in the body of the dancers who perform it? It seemed so in Gabrielle Lansner's work, "Holocaust Stories," which owed much of its power to the four performers appearing in her series of three dance-theatre pieces at the Duke recently.

Lansner's company of four is a committed group, especially Dee Pelletier as the "The Jewish Wife" (text by Bertolt Brecht) who chooses to leave her Aryan husband to save his career as a doctor. From the horrific beginning, when we hear the sounds of glass shattering (Kristallnacht) and see her crumpled, fearful figure curled in a fetal position, to her final, slow exit in search of safety, suitcase in hand, she is a tormented figure. In the third story, Pelletier, as the mother whose infant "Magda" was murdered by the Nazis (text adapted from two stories of Cynthia Ozick), gives us a portrait of an unspeakable loss that will haunt her forever. She is a lovely dancer, her quality at times expansive, at times often tight and angular, but it is her piercing eyes and pale, sculpted face that ultimately rivet the viewer.

Darrill Rosen, who appeared in the second story, "Address Unknown," is a slight young man with a shaved head and small goatee who becomes larger than life in his performance of Max, a Jewish-American art dealer. Max cannot believe that his German business partner and friend, Martin, portrayed by Charles Tuthill, has betrayed their friendship by turning away his letters out of fear of reprisal by the Nazis. In a twist of fate, Martin becomes a victim himself. "Address Unknown," a New York premiere, is adapted from Kathrine Kressmann Taylor's novel of the same name, set to the music of Andrei Balanescu and Franz Schubert.

In each of Lansner's works, she has successfully handled stories of difficult subject matter, keeping the emotional content, suspense, and pathos on a restrained but compelling level.

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