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Celebrating Chopin

Dance and romance dominate Margaret Wingrove Dance Company program

By Marianne Messina

IN LAST weekend's "Celebrating Chopin" program at Le Petit Trianon, the Margaret Wingrove Dance Company engine was driven by vital, full-bodied Chopin Nocturnes and Ballads, a la Steinway, under the command of the world-touring husband-and-wife pianist team, Mark Anderson and Tamriko Siprashvili. The program grew out of a scene from Wingrove's 2002 work Isadora, choreographed to Chopin's First Ballad but previously performed to a recording.

The first half of the program also included a new work, Amante de le Libertad (Lover of Freedom), in honor of the Chilean musician Victor Jara (brutally killed in the military coup), danced to Jara's own music by Yoira Esquivel. This brief dance of a wife carrying forward her husband's music was folded nicely between the couple's dance from Isadora and another of Wingrove's powerful couples pieces, Nora and James (2003).

This focus on couples made it hard not to be struck by the rich nuance of relationships. The relationship between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle as danced by Matt Kovac and Janine Bryan was full of whimsy, of spatting between the sexes (especially during the second segment's gigue). But the relationship between Isadora Duncan and Gordon Craig, as danced by Lori Seymour and Michael Howerton, seemed darker, with more at stake. The moves in Nora and James were horrendously athletic, what with Kovac supporting Bryan's precarious back-bending and her rolls across his back, often from a squatting position. It's graphically a relationship rooted in trust and support.

Conversely, Seymour's Isadora withheld the same trust. Her moves spoke of the uncommitted—she leapt to a quick lift from Gordon/Howerton, then as quickly descended, turning away with her hands clutched to her middle. Both Howerton and Seymour were taut, in sync, like people who've explored each other's depths but are still wary. These contrasting love relationships laid the ground for Speaking of Love, a 40-minute premiere (Wingrove's longest piece to date) that filled the program's entire second half.

In Speaking of Love, the dance ensemble interpreted several of Kahlil Gibran's love verses, giving each a unique flavor with its own Chopin Nocturne. In "To melt and be like a running brook / That sings its melody to the night," Carol Ann Miller made her torso fluid with undulation. In "To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy," Seymour captured the ambivalence of "resting" within "ecstasy" (helped along by ecstatic lighting from light designer John Carney and operator Bill Doherty).

"To know the pain of too much tenderness" was a nice vehicle for the elegant lifts of Howerton with the tender Alexsandra Meijer (of Ballet Silicon Valley). Meijer made the slightest movements seem excruciating or important, as she chose. In "To be wounded by your own understanding of love / And to bleed willingly and joyfully," Howerton created a signature performance around a symbolic prop—a silver ring. At times, he danced to, with and around ring, not taking his eyes from it. Other times, he avoided it, carefully. Many of the segments of this finale piece spoke softly, in subdued tones, giving Gibran's Love an underwater quality. Still, at the finale's finish, Anderson's jubilant runs along the Steinway broke into the air like sunshine.

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From the June 23-29, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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