Blurred 2008 Steinberg


“Multi-themed Borders festival full of contrasts and humor”
By Janice Steinberg

June 2, 2008

The ninth Blurred Borders Dance Festival, at the Saville Theatre last weekend, offered the strongest body of work in the festival’s history – a witty satire of our media-drunk culture, a mysterious play with light, and a moody walk through Buenos Aires.

Curated by the Patricia Rincon Dance Collective, Blurred Borders 2008 showcased Yolande Snaith, who began her career in London and now teaches at UCSD; the rising-star Tijuana troupe Lux Boreal; and Rincon doing a collaboration with Buenos Aires video artist Paula Zacharias.

In Snaith’s “Hanging in the Balance” a lamp dangles perhaps two feet above a motionless man (Kristopher D. Ross). To a wailing didgeridoo, other dancers swing a light over Ross or gesture as if sending mojo to revive him. It works. He’s up!

The “story” is only part of the magic of this piece, which Snaith adapted from a work she made for “Bottle Night,” an earlier Sushi series at a downtown bar. The movement is a marvel of contrasts, a single gesture mixing delicacy and sharper edges, for instance, when Veronica Martin-Lamm stiffly extends but also flutters her arm.

In a deliciously mischievous section, Snaith messes with Handel’s Sarabande in D Minor. At first, the seven dancers match the timing and mood of the stately music, as if Snaith has channeled Mark Morris. Gradually, goofy gestures — a torso wave, a flipped ponytail — sneak into the piece, and soon everyone’s grooving.

And despite low-tech constraints, the rich red-and-black color scheme demonstrates Snaith’s visual artistry.

Rincon’s “Tres y Quatro” grew out of a dance trio she made for Deven P. Brawley’s all-male d’shire dance. Brawley, Ross and Justin Viernes start out with clean turns and extensions, driven by Donald Nichols’ score in which numbers are spoken in several languages over outer spacey tones.

In this expanded version, two round video screens, like portholes, show identical partial images provided by Zacharias — a boy playing bandoneon (the Argentine accordion), a woman’s feet in strappy two-toned shoes.

Rincon also adds a femme fatale, slinky Keeley Campbell, whose arrival livens up the movement, introducing quick starts and stops. Campbell pivots to create a segue as a full screen appears for Zacharias’ film, “Waiting.”

In the poetic film, everyone’s doing the tango — on the street, in clubs — except a woman (Leylen Segundo) with a lovely, tragic face. She wanders through Buenos Aires (in scenes that appeared as snippets during “Tres y Quatro”) and broods alone in a tango club. Finally, in a park, she lets loose with her own juicy spins and jumps (choreographed by Rincon).

Though the opening dance has little explicit connection with the video, a common pulse makes the elements work.

Six-year-old Lux Boreal has generated well-deserved buzz with athletic dancers and choreography that grapples with ideas, yet also offers purely visceral excitement.

In “Natural Breakdown,” director Angel Arambula capitalizes on Azalea Lopez’s comic flair. Lopez, with rolling eyes and saucy hips, and loose-limbed Henry Torres play the frustrated parents of Raul Navarro, whose butt is stuck to a chair in front of the television.

The futon-style chair becomes embattled territory, the parents trying to get rid of it. In a hilarious bit, Navarro lounges on the chair while three dancers, lying under it, wriggle it back to center-stage.

Sassy and hip, “Natural Breakdown” shows off Lux Boreal’s ensemble work. Five dancers cluster, each with a hand to one ear, as if they’re all talking on cell phones at a bus stop. Yet though their attention is on distant conversations, they unconsciously pick up each other’s movements, legs swiveling out as if they’re dancing the twist, jumping with a jazzy flourish to the side, all impeccably timed.

This is the second time Rincon has tapped Lux Boreal for Blurred Borders, and it’s a sign of her keen curatorial eye. The company is about to cross another border, having been chosen to represent Mexico at this month’s opening of Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain.

Janice Steinberg is a San Diego dance critic.