TAKE Dance Company doesn't have to thwack or grind to get your attention. Their lithe, graceful dancers scoop, hop and spring their way though intricate, fluid 'ography as deftly and sweetly as a fistful of cotton candy. The intimate space at DTW provides the perfect venue for this eleven-member ensemble company, who will be performing there through August 2nd. The program boasts that artistic director Takehiro Ueyama, a Paul Taylor alum, "has created a vast repertoire of work featuring sensitive and exciting choreography that presents a feast for the eyes, the mind, and the soul." "Well, damn!" I thought. "Bring it on."
The entire program is choreographed by Ueyama. His first piece, Linked, contains three movements. The first introduces the audience to his effervescent, airy style. Two dancers begin with a series of deceptively simple steps that seem to arise almost spontaneously between two people who just really enjoy being together. The rest of the company prances on, echoing the steps and adding their own. The whole piece has a very "isn't-life-peachy" vibe to it, as if the dancers, who are literally dressed in tanks and khakis a la the Gap, could've come and danced for you or just simply gone to the park.
In the second section, however, the mood really changes as the company performs a series of hypnotic, yogic movements... in spellbinding silence. I am completely entranced. At times they move in unison, and at times the movement ripples through the dancers, leaving one on his feet, one lying prone on the ground. My jaw opens slightly and my head tilts to one side. I am completely entranced.
The trance is then broken by an explosive third movement, which is similar stylistically to the first two, but faster and with considerably more joy. It's as if they had been building up to it: the languid ease with which they dance through life in the first movement, combined with the contemplative stillness of the second, brings about the joy and completion of the third.
After a pause, the program resumes with Love Stories, a series of three short duets performed by Kile Hotchkiss and Nana Tsuda. The two match each other perfectly, combining light, airy jumps with graceful, seamless partnering. Their first pas de duex is romantic and lovely, while in the second the two seem unable to connect the way they had in the first, and the choreography turns manipulative. The romance, apparently, is doomed. By the third movement, the dancers come out with bags on their heads. Never a fan of blatant allegory in dance, I spend most of the piece trying to figure out what the bags are suppose to represent. Finally, I see that I have to stop searching for an answer in every little plie and just watch what is going on in front of me. It is only then I get caught up in the beauty of it and begin to realize that the bags have something to do with our inability to reveal our true selves... I think... still, the piece is gorgeous and I appreciate the fact that Ueyama wants his audience to think.
As the lights come up on Shabon, I am already in fear that it would be too annoyingly abstract for me. There are bubbles, for one. Not, like, on the backdrop. I'm talking "you blew 'em out a wand when you were three" bubbles. The costumes look as though they’re salvaged from a space age thrift shop; they are ugly. The choreo' is too similar to what I have seen in the two previous pieces… I keep waiting for it to win me over, but in the end it is just too trippy for my taste.
Cheryl McCarron's costumes redeem themselves, however, in Ueyama's final work, Footsteps in the Snow. Not only should I mention the costumes, which are simple black pants and elegant white tuxedo shirts, but the lighting design throughout the entire evening is remarkable. Designer Jason Jeunnette really gets the chance to show off in TAKE's finale, which opens with two beautifully lit snowfalls, one upstage and one downstage, which dust Ueyama and his partner. The floor is already covered with snow an inch thick, which, remarkably, doesn't trip anybody up. The snow does not merely decorate the scene, however. The dancers roll in it, play in it, pick it up and let it trickle through their fingertips. The company proves that for all its elegance, they are not afraid to get messy. The snow grounds them and adds texture to the dance, which is otherwise ethereal and tenderly erotic. Footsteps in the Snow is my favorite piece of the evening.
The company is comprised of outstanding dancers who work well as an ensemble. The biggest standout, however, is Ueyama himself. While he puts his dancers in the spotlight nine times out of ten, when he is onstage, he is so nimble, so polished and yet so vulnerable as an artist that I couldn't take my eyes off him. TAKE does not just make me want to take class, it makes me want to learn the secrets of Takehiro Ueyama!
Photography by Mary Ann Moy
iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Molly Sorohan
Performance: TAKE Dance Company
Choreographer: Takehiro Ueyama
Venue: DTW, Dance Theater Workshop, New York
Performance Date: July 30, 2009, 7:30 pm
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