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January 2005

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Juilliard Dance

Published: January 27, 2005
Category: review

A Conversation Between Too Much & Not Enough: Buglisi Foreman Dance

By Rachel Straus

Jacqulyn Buglisi’s new dance “The Conversation” rushes forward with a turbulent energy comparable to nature’s brute force. The choreographer’s 11-year-old company Buglisi Foreman Dance, which she co-directs with her husband Donlin Foreman, has always focused on producing works that seethe with physical foreboding. What comes as a surprise in Ms. Buglisi’s new work, which had its world premiere Tuesday at the Joyce Theater, is the choreographer’s timing in choosing Indonesia as her geographic source of inspiration.

“Conversation” appears to focus on the country’s unhappy women in the face of an ever-shifting landscape. After an early-December visit to the south Asian archipelago, Ms. Buglisi, a former Martha Graham principal dancer, completed “Conversation.” Collaborating with video designer Jan Hartley, her work includes projected images of churning whirlpools and fiery sunsets. Also seen are Madeline Weinrib’s paintings, which superimpose serious female faces against imagery of the natural world.

Cellist Maya Beiser’s penetrating performance on tape covers a wide range of emotions: from the driving tempi of Philip Glass’s orchestral compositions to Edward Elgar’s mournful, spare lyricism. At one point, it adds the sound of rushing water. Along with Ms. Buglisi’s penchant for leg sweeping, knee crawling, heart-tearing gestures for her female dancers, it created an inescapable allusion to a landscape ravaged by the tsunami of December 26.

“Conversation” begins auspiciously. The curtain rises to show four women, standing apart from each other and rooted to their spot as though they are hearing voices. In A. Christina Giannini’s lace-and-silk, sari-inspired costumes, the women float against a surging, cloud-filled projection of a sky. Then an image of musician Beiser, playing her cello, materializes from the clouds; four male dancers enter the stage and violently hoist dancer Helen Hanson aloft their heads; the other women leave, curiously oblivious to Hanson’s ravaging.

At that early moment, “Conversation” becomes incoherent. There is too much to look at, and the changing video projections competing for attention with the dancers in the foreground. Twenty-odd minutes later, the work reaches its end. But no identifiable conversation between the male and female dancers is communicated or developed.

That is too bad, for throughout “Conversation,” Ms. Buglisi demonstrates her talent for sculpting indelible images. When Ms. Hanson balances her entire outstretched body on the neck of dancer Walter Cinquinella like the Winged Victory of Samothrace, Ms. Buglisi’s dance soars.

In Mr. Foreman’s world premiere “Gravel Bed,” the former Graham principal loosely uses the tango dance form to describe the tension, and disappointments that surface between men and women. On stage, playwright Aya Ogawa spoke in interludes from her text about hope: “I thought the world was going to end, but it went on. There was still love.” Then composer Daniel Binelli on Bandoneon and Polly Ferman on piano performed live in a style more reminiscent of Bobby Short at the Carlyle Café than of the luxuriant style of Argentine tango musicians.

In between, Mr. Foreman’s choreography featured lifts that sent the three female dancers circling around their partners’ heads like lassos. Mr. Foreman, who still likes to include himself in his work, didn’t dance as much; he moved three doors on wheels around the stage. The doors, explained Ms. Ogawa, represented the abyss of the heart. This conceit never realized itself in the choreography, but the dancers in “Gravel” moved with a grace and technical virtuosity that reflected their total commitment to the work.

The busy Buglisi Foreman Dance will present four more dances through Sunday, including Ms. Buglisi’s spectacular 2000 “Suspended Women,” which completed the company’s Tuesday night performance and remains a tour de force.

The New York Sun



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