Guns and roses become props in 'Black Blossom,' a dance of contrasts

January 29, 1993|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

"Black Blossom," the hourlong work by Dutch choreographer Truus Bronkhorst at the Theatre Project this weekend, is not for those who like their dance mainstream.

Ms. Bronkhorst's work, which she performs with Adolf Lisand and Cliff Rijissel, from Suriname, and Giovanni Adriaan, from Curacao, is decidedly on the edge. Precariously balanced between theater and dance, "Black Blossom" sometimes wobbles in its strenuous attempts to get its message across.

Ms. Bronkhorst's interests in modern dance, theater and psychology is evident in her work's study of contrasts and ambiguities. Images of cruelty and tenderness, trust and betrayal, solitude and solidarity are paraded in front of the audience. The choreographer examines the rigidity of discipline and the freedom of improvisation, the trained dancer vs. the untrained dancer, and the politics of race.

The three men primarily have disco and MTV dance experience. Their lack of conventional training is evident and serves to

underscore Ms. Bronkhorst's formal technique.

It is obvious that a lot of thought and energy have gone into this piece. And despite several sections that could benefit from judicious editing, the majority of the work is provocative. Ms. Bronkhorst's stage persona is severe and compelling, and her sense of drama is nicely honed. Often a glimpse of wicked humor shines through.

"Black Blossom" is constructed as a series of unrelated dramatic scenarios often underlined by sound and music or props. Long, black, fake fingernails, black top hats, wooden rifles and black silk roses weave their way through the dance. Music by Erik Satie, Beethoven, Archie Shepp and James Brown provide another layer of commentary.

Repetition is also a factor, and often the same gesture will accompany different props. At one moment, Ms. Bronkhorst cradles a bunch of roses in her arms then croons to them as if soothing a baby. Several sections later Ms. Bronkhorst and the men repeat the movements, but this time their arms hold guns.

"Black Blossoms" has some fine moments, and like a parable it is open to interpretation on several levels. The strongest moments of the work occur when everyone is in unison.

Perhaps that's what it's all about.

'Black Blossom'

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday.

% Call: (410) 752-8558.

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