The influence of her mentor shines through the dances created by Kathy Wildberger


November 04, 1991|By J. L. Conklin

"Floor Play," the title for local choreographer Kathy Wildberger's concert last weekend at the Baltimore School for the Arts, aptly captures the essence of her choreographic personality. For even in the most "serious" of her dances -- those that deal with loss, frustration and anger -- there remains a great sense of play. One senses that despite the seriousness of her subject matter that her dances are at their heart a game.

The work of Ms. Wildberger's mentor, the late Jeff Duncan, opened the program of five challenging dances. "Diminishing Landscape" was created in 1966, a time when choreography was rebelling against the formalism of Martha Graham and other established techniques. Performed with careful attention by .

Chris Dohse, Mary Becker, Sean Curran and Ms. Wildberger, the work today has its own strong aura of stark surrealist formalism that creates a sense of southwestern landscape and vast spaces. While the work was strong on its visual imagery, the drama of the ending felt overly contrived and not quite 100 percent.

But the performance of guest artist, Sean Curran, of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Company, in the premiere of "103%" by Kelli Wicke Davis, was exactly that and perhaps more. This work is of the "dance as athletics" genre, and Mr. Curran, outfitted in wrestling gear, smoothly and amazingly contorted his body in improbable formations. "103%" was an exercise in concentration the phrasing accumulated and repeated itself, working with and against the score by Glen Velez.

The balance of the choreography belonged to Ms. Wildberger, who presented two premieres alongside her well-performed and familiar "Snakes Don't Wear Shoes." Her "Battlescars," which featured Sandra Lacey and the choreographer in a co-dependent contest of wills, was well-crafted and deftly performed.

The closing work, "Sean and Kathy in Grand Canyon (with Jefand Arnie), a Quartet," was a masterful dance that combined the voices of Arnie Zane and Jeff Duncan to the strings of the Suzuki Music Camp; it wonderfully captured the sense of void that the death of the two mentors left in the lives of their friends.

The couple prop one another up and curb the other's off-center movements. Toward the end of the dance, the couple seem to slow-dance with invisible partners; nearly connected to each other, they rhythmically move in unison. They break apart, run toward each other, and miss. In separate spaces on the stage, they touch their hearts with their hands. It was a touching stillness.

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