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Dance Reviews : ‘Passings’ a Work of Departed Spirits

CalArts is nothing if not a school that celebrates illusion as a goal of creativity. So, in the dance department’s annual concert Thursday, a memorial to the late film and video dean, Ed Emshwiller, all images were flying.

First, there was the artful program booklet. It highlighted the title of the event, “Passings,” in ghostly script scrawled on an edge of celluloid.

And there were the dances themselves, evocative of another world, of departed spirits. The best of them, apart from overusing the device of interpolated whisperings on their sound scores, drew on highly original inspirations.

Mary Ann Kellogg’s “Untitled,” for instance, is a CalArts version of “Spectre de la Rose.”

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A girl, Colleen O’Callaghan, sleeps on a chaise while a screen projects fragments of surreal scenes and a man in an overcoat, Jacques Heim, appears at her side. She gets up and dances against the aural background of a lone, mournful cello.

Each time she returns to chaise and dream state the screen images change, and the man assumes greater intimacy with her. Finally, she transforms into a Madonna-like figure in black bustier, and he disappears into the screen. A clever idea wonderfully performed and executed.

Compelling, too, was Laurence Blake’s “Doom. A Sigh,” with its theatrical use of platforms and hierarchic harem positionings, pantalooned dancers of Arabic accent in movement conveying equal parts mystery and urgency.

Tina Yuan’s “Revenge of a Lonely Ghost,” danced superbly by the choreographer and Kurt Weinheimer, had its share of Butohesque writhings but found focus in Yuan’s dramatic appearance in a puff of smoke and ceremonial dance of death.

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Unfortunately, Rebecca Bobele’s “Seele” dealt in generalities and suffered from all-purpose, post-modern trance dance--robotic figures in a grope-grasp fest. And Weinheimer’s “Baby” proved too much of an in-joke to make either a point or any sense.


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