Watching different dancers alternate in major roles may be the greatest constant pleasure of ballet-going but is still comparatively rare in modern dance. Now, however, Ferne Ackerman’s locally based Big Flood Dance Company offers two performances per program of the same short work--with a switch of principals--in its intriguing new Saturday series at the Main Street Dance Studio in Santa Monica.
As Ackerman explained in one of the question-and-answer sessions, she wanted to see how the size, weight and personality of her choreography would change when new people came into it. More significantly for the work danced on this occasion, Ackerman also wanted to learn how an audience’s experience would differ in an immediate second viewing.
On this evening, Big Flood danced and re-danced “Flame,” a formal 1986 group piece that will be seen in July on the “Dance Kaleidoscope” series at Cal State Los Angeles.
Set to a high energy, percussive sound-score, “Flame” found the six cast members wearing long robes: black on the outside and brightly colored on the inside to match their loose sweat shirts and leotards. These robes became full-scale entities in the performance .
However, Ackerman’s ingenuity with robes tended to cloak other major values in the work: her rhythmic sophistication, for example, or the deft contrasts between sensuous, flowing torso motion and quick, sharp limb action.
It was these elements that emerged in high relief at the repeat performance--not so much from the substitution of two dancers as from audience familiarity with the piece itself. As the novelty wore off, the artistry became more evident. Perhaps Big Flood should have danced “Flame” a third time--with no robes at all.