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The Arts
June 21-27, 2006

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The Margaret Wingrove Dance Company

Photograph by David Lepori
Lovers' Encounter: Zuri Goldman and Catharine Grow duet in 'Three Loves.'

Mastering Munch

Margaret Wingrove's newest dances are spun off from the passionate painting of Edvard Munch

By Marianne Messina

INSPIRED BY Edvard Munch, prolific choreographer Margaret Wingrove created four new pieces for her dance company's upcoming program, "Love, Desire & Separation." "As soon as I got the ideas for this thing, it just went shooo!" says Wingrove of her pieces Evening Reflections, 3 Stages of a Woman, Letting Go and Three Loves, all set to the music of Robert Schumann. If you gaze at Munch's paintings while Schumann's Fantasia (op. 17 in C Major) is playing, you can almost feel the 21st-century mind clutter falling away. It's a good match-up—both artists leave you with a lot of space.

In a practice room, dancers Lori Seymour and Michael Howerton rehearse the "Possessive" aspect of love from the trilogy of dances called Three Loves (set to Fantasia), which will span the entire second half of Wingrove's program.

The dance was inspired by the Munch painting Vampire, which depicts a woman engulfing a man, her vague face poised over his head and neck. As Wingrove watches the dancers rehearse, she continues to sculpt the evolution of the initial "love" toward the vampire's increasing control over the man.

Soon, the movements butt up against the natural bias built into most dance training: the man leads. When they reach the point at which Howerton cedes a big part of his autonomy, Wingrove calls to Seymour, "You've finally convinced him he's one with you, but it looks like he's doing it."

Howerton relaxes briefly. "It looks like I'm manipulating her?" he asks. "You should be limp," Wingrove offers. "You're just going along for the ride." It's an untraditional stance in a dance that includes an untraditional lift—Seymour lifts Howerton to an extended pose on her shoulder. The dance also calls for sweeping internal shifts—like Seymour going from coy seductress to consuming predator—yet with very subtle movements.

"Get strong, coming through your back," Wingrove suggests, demonstrating a slight straightening of the upper back that signals a gathering of power. Consistently small clues of movement, like the way a seductive Seymour snakes down the front of Howerton's body, suggest her hidden vampire nature.

At the end of the piece the pair strike a pose that references the Munch painting to Schumann's three soft, well-spaced chords, and Seymour remarks that pianist Mark Anderson "is pretty good at watching," highlighting the fact that the production will have live music and all the organic potential that goes with it. Though the other dances likewise reference Munch's paintings, Wingrove points out, "I'm not trying to repeat the picture. I'm inspired by the idea of it." She mentions how her concept for "Painful" love (Three Loves) came from the painting Separation, which will be danced by Zuri Goldman and Catharine Grow of Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley. In the painting, the couple are connected by his hand on her hair as she pulls away. "It's like they're connected but separated. He's holding on; she's going to be ready to break loose."

But Wingrove also found herself influenced by Munch's private writings. "I said, well, why am I feeling these paintings so much?" Munch's works (most famously, The Scream) are often considered "haunted" and full of angst. "When people first saw his paintings, they were abhorred by them; they said there was too much emotion, too much feeling. He said he was trying to dissect souls. ... He wanted to go into the deepest recesses of the soul. And people, you know—that's scary."

Wingrove's program visits some potentially scary places as well; for example, in The 3 Stages of a Woman, she seeks to capture the aging process of a woman through her spring, summer and winter. "I think it'll be poignant," Wingrove considers. "You're seeing some different things. I think that's good; that's how you grow—if you can be open enough to do that."

The Margaret Wingrove Dance Company performs Friday-Sunday (June 23-25) at 8pm at Le Petit Trianon, 72 N. Fifth St., San Jose. Tickets are $25-$30. (1.888.455.Show)

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