BWW Reviews: Dance Lumiere's SECRETS ON THE WAY
I've slept on it. I've discussed it with a friend over coffee. I've read and re-read the poems over and over again but, to be completely honest, I still don't know what to make of The American-Scandinavian Foundation's Danse Lumiere in Secrets on the Way.
I suppose you could argue that it's a good thing that the performance made me stop and think and ponder, but a bigger part of me is just frustrated by it. With the poems of Tomas Transtromer, the inspiration for the dance pieces, written in the program, a narrator on stage vocalizing the poems, and choreography telling the story, the message Danse Lumiere was trying to tell me should have been crystal clear. And the poems were clear; as someone who studied English Literature in college, I believed I had a firm grasp of Transtromer's work as I researched it before the performance, read the poems before each number, and listened carefully to the narrator on stage. But then the dancers stepped onto the stage and began re-enacting the writing and the story was completely lost on me. With dance, the choreography should be able to tell the story of its own accord, so when you have the story laid out in front of you in three different mediums and it's still lost on you, there's a problem.
Of course, in the case of all modern dance, or any style of dance in general, everyone is going to interpret the choreography differently, just like everyone gets something different out of their favorite book, or film, or painting. It's up for interpretation, which is what makes dance an art form. Unfortunately, this particular performance was lost on me. I found it confusing and frustrating. Others in the audience, however, seemed completely moved by the performance. So I guess all I can say is enter at your own risk. You may discover that this company speaks to you, or you may leave sorely disappointed and frustrated like I did.
The dancing was adequate. Nothing mind-blowing, a bit amateurish at times, but decent none-the-less. And pieces of the story did stand out to me, such as their hustle and bustle of the city and the second number of the show which depicted an illicit love affair. It was the choreography that was the problem with this performance. For the most part, none of the movements of the dancers really spoke to me or connected to the words I was hearing and reading in the program. I can only imagine how lost I would have been without that additional guidance they granted me in the form of words, which honestly shouldn't have even been necessary. Good choreography allows the dancers to tell the story on their own, with no additional medium required.
Earll Kingston, however, was spectacular as the detective and narrator of the show as he moved between the scenes of this dance-noir. His speaking voice is outstanding. I was transfixed and would have been content to just listen to him recite Transtromer's poetry all evening without the presence of the dancers.
Danse Lumiere is native to San Francisco. This performance marked their premiere in New York City. The Scandinavia House, which co-sponsored this evening of dance, along with the Poets House, has a lot to offer to the arts in the near future. Will I be going back? Probably not. But if abstract is your thing, you can find more events coming up at www.scandinaviahouse.org.