Can a modern dance company and a New Age music group find happiness together?
That was the question Saturday when Loretta Livingston & Dancers joined the J. Rona Ensemble at the Japan America Theatre for the premiere of a full-evening piece called “A Window in the Passage.”
But it could not be answered with a simple yes or no. At times the metaphysical import of Livingston’s chastely lyric movement took an extra dimension from Rona’s into-the-cosmos score. Often, however, the musical tail seemed to be wagging the choreographic dog. And occasionally the impulses were dead wrong, contradicting the very point of the dance-maker’s efforts. Even so, one had to forgive the miscalculations between sight and sound because of the powerful images that stayed in mind.
Livingston, a former Lewitzky dancer, has proven herself a thoughtful, inventive choreographer, one whose personal style transfers well to her dancers. But this overly ambitious piece, which brandishes all the weary, modern-dance cliches of life’s odyssey--isolation, bonding, combat, bravery in the face of the unknown--is not nearly as provocative as her earlier work.
Livingston is a master of the particularized situation, the complex interactions between two people, for instance. And that she forsakes here in favor of the Grand Issues.
What saves “Window” are the indelible leitmotifs created on her long-limbed, narrow body. She jumps onto some imaginary safe island, her feet together and stock still once planted, her knees slightly bending and upper torso and aerial arms softly wafting, then cantilevering over her legs. She is the eternal nymph. She is a Japanese print in motion--poetic, sparse, fluid.
In the opening segment, “The Arrival,” Livingston and the five others use a variation of this motif: As sensual beings without sight, they bask in the light, their faces caress it, their bodies move like leaves responding to photosynthesis.
But the lulling tropical rhythms that seem more apt as elevator music trivialize the developing group maneuvers. And “Elements,” which follows, seconds the banality: Dancers in shipwreck tatters (another cliche) face the wind, with fans in the wings blowing their hair.
Next, in “The Archives,” the heroine, Traveler Livingston, finds herself among deities on platforms performing ritualized movements. Soon enough she discovers their feet of clay and ends up contemplating her isolation--as a sphinx.
The finale, “Light,” brings back the leitmotifs, capturing them in takes between blackouts. Not a moment too soon.