Dream Report 2008
January 10-13
Wagner Dance Studios, UCSD

Upon a flowing river of words sits a small, simple house, lit from within and radiating warmth against the cool blue that washes over the stage. A figure hovers over the house – manipulated by strings – floating around the four small walls until it ascends upwards and takes leave of the miniature residence. The scale of the house gives the impression that we, the audience, are viewing it from quite a distance above, somewhat detached yet bearing witness to an intensely personal and intimate act. So begins “Ligua”, which refers to songs sung by Latvian women during the summer solstice, a work inspired by Allyson Green’s recent residency in that country, one of the many in Eastern Europe where she has presented and created dances.

Green’s influences from Eastern Europe seem to pervade much of her work – not just in terms of music choice or subject matter, but in terms of a sensibility that is straightforward and sturdy, hovering somewhere between celebration and lament, between fragility and strength. “Ligua” is not an exciting piece, it’s a contemplative one where folded arms and small glances hold more weight than the gentle turns and soft jumps that appear regularly in Green’s choreography. Without projecting too much onto the people of Eastern Europe, the relationships that Green builds on stage seem to embody my perception of that region – however it is I came to develop that perception. The interactions between her dancers (Heather Zornes-Almanza, Rafaella Judd, grace jun, and Donna Webb) don’t feel passionate or emotional, but rather matter-of-fact and restrained.

And the interactions take place solely among women. Green, perhaps more so than any other choreographer in town, seems to elevate and honor the bond of women. Female interaction in Green’s work feels like a common language, a shared understanding, a secret knowledge that is off-limits, at least to this male spectator. Yet the impenetrable nature makes it all the more mysterious and beautiful. As the women come together around the little house and dance to the songs of the sun’s lasting presence, they pay tribute to that nest of love and family while mourning its inevitable emptiness and the loss which at some point affects every such dwelling.

Two sheer fabrics diffuse the very different relationships and interactions that unfold in “Falling into Place”, a new work that Green set on the talented Tijuana-based company Lux Boreal Danza Contemporanea with whom she regularly works. Moving as a single unit, the seven dancers break into unexpected tableaux – images that disappear as soon as we can acknowledge them. The images build like an approaching storm, still slightly obscured by the transparent cloths. As the cloths part, the mood shifts. Individuals emerge; a break in routine brings life and energy. Ultimately we return to the repetition of those beginning pictures, the sudden lifts and jumps familiar yet somehow they continue to surprise me. It’s as if we have no choice but to fall back into our places, whatever they may be, constantly shifting and moving forward, off balance and upside down yet strangely feeling as if we’ve done it all before.

In addition to these two works, Dream Report 2008 offered an engaging duet from Victor Alonso and Robby Johnson in “On” that culminated in an eloquent solo by Alison Dieterle-Smith, set against the stark backdrop of a naked branch and lonesome stones in which she brought life to the barren terrain. The work was book-ended with stunning video by Peter Terezakis of his light installations, one of which welcomed audiences members as they entered the studio theater. The tall white neon lights flickered throughout the eucalyptus grove that hides the studios, illuminating the space, connecting performance to environment. Finally, the second half consisted of a brilliant turn by Steven Schick and Shahrokh Yadegari, whose realization of Kurt Schwitters (The New) UrSonata managed to be poignant, humorous, delightful, inspiring, and simply unbelievable.

There was no discernible thread through Dream Report 2008. The quiet drama of “Ligua” didn’t easily flow into Samual Beckett’s words in “On”, nor did either have much in common with “Falling into Place” and Terezakis’ videos did little to tie it all together. Schick and Yadegari’s music in the second half felt like a completely isolated event. Yet isn’t that how a dream works? Unexplained leaps, non-linear progression, ideas that hop and skip throughout the brain so that eventually you end up somewhere you never expected. Somewhere that’s pleasantly surprising. And then all of the fun is in tracing your way back to where you began.