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DANCE REVIEW : Avaz Troupe in Silver Lake

More than ever, Anthony Shay’s Avaz International Dance Theatre seems to adopt a documentary rather than theatrical approach to folk performance.

In its program Sunday in the auditorium of Thomas Starr King Junior High in Silver Lake, Shay’s locally based, 12-year-old ensemble largely avoided the mindless, kaleidoscopic suites and condescending, quasi-narrative genre scenes that so many other companies offer in the name of folk culture.

Instead, selections from (mostly) the Balkans, Central Asia and the Middle East followed one another like tracks on a record album--each one carefully edited, then placed in context by Shay’s introductions, but making the same perceptual demands on the audience as any serious music and dance experience.

Only Daniel Matousek’s new Appalachian finale (very close, at times, to a staple of the Aman repertory) looked synthetic, as if Avaz believes it can be looser with American traditions than with those of Croatia or Kurdistan.

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Choreographed by Ixchel Dimetral-Maerker, new women’s dances from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia exploited rippling arms and intricate flicks and flutters of the hands along with great rhythmic vibrancy.

Choreographed by Shay and Matousek, two new mixed-group pieces from Croatia, and a sensational new Kurdistani line dance for 12 men and women all deftly balanced large-scale geometry (groups dividing, intersecting, etc.) against intriguing facets of the native dance vocabularies: the distinctive Croatian brushing steps (Licko) and hops (Balun), for example, or the Kurds’ ribbon-waving, knee-dropping and torso-rocking.

As always, the Avaz chorus and musicians added to the pleasure of the performance, with a particularly invigorating Balkan-style brass band high on the list of novelties.


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