BWW Reviews: ANNA'S AMERICANA Provides a Glimpse Into Anna Sokolow's Investigation of the Human Condition
Anna's Americana by the Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble on December 4th provided a glimpse into Anna Sokolow's investigation of the human condition in the intimate space of The Theater at the 14th Street Y. Alan Danielson's Are We There Yet (2000) accompanied three works by Sokolow, Preludes (1984), Homage to Edgar Allan Poe (1993), and Frida (1997). Directed by longtime Sokolow dancer and Bessie recipient Jim May, the program underscored the focus of Sokolow's voice through the decades of her work.
Prelude contained nostalgia and romance, with an undercurrent of paranoia. Four women and four men flirted and waved, gathered around the piano, (accompaniment by Amir Khosrowpour), and explored various partner dances. The enjoyment of their wholesome fun diluted by darting touches to the body and anxious flicking of feet. Social niceties communicated status and expectation, where the body communicated a barely restrained reality of ability and desperation. In light of civil unrest related to Ferguson and Staten Island, Sokolow's commentary on community gatherings embodied an unexpected poignancy.
Descending further into melancholy, Jim May narrated Sokolow's Homage to Edgar Allan Poe with lines from Annabel Lee. A disparate Poe figure emerged at times, in the circling of men and women. Whirling bodies and windmilling arms, built to an exhausting push and pull in Poe's depression. Dancers ran back and forth, ever in search of something. Ending with a pas de deux, the reticence of farewell lingered.
Such feelings of loss continued, with recently deceased Limon dancer and teacher Alan Danielson's work Are We There Yet. Intended to be performed by Jim May and guest artist Clay Taliaferro, whose injuries prevented additional performances, Richard Scandola and Luis Gabriel Zaragoza danced together. Of the ensemble's varied roster of dancers, Scandola, the highlight by far. Danielson's duet showed surface tensions (as Sokolow did in Prelude) with bickering, scratching, pacing and slapstick but more fully delved into the scope of relationship. Scandola's character dominated initially, dictating specificity to Zaragoza's copycat actions. In the opening, both stutter-stepped into a lateral lunge. The attitude and circumstances with which they returned to this lunge ended much differently. Scandola's domination receded and Zaragoza's playful antagonization matured. Scandola swayed into his final lunge, coming to rest (and reliant) on Zaragoza's shoulder. The arrogant were humbled and the weak became strong.
Sokolow's Frida somewhat assuaged the heaviness. Dancers assembled themselves into colorful tableaus accented by Kahlo's works projected in the background. The main section of movement was festive, male and female dancers all together - piñata included. The celebration was not without solemnity as dancers intermittently placed their hands on each other's heads and grasped limbs. In ceremony, the female dancers gathered around a Frida-like character, in prayer and supplication as she departed this life (of which is suspected was a deliberate end of her suffering). Again, Sokolow's ideas and research remain ever prescient.
Richard Scandola by Stern Weber Studio.