American Repertory Touches Universal 'Heart of Woman'

In its latest program of classic modern dance solos, the American Repertory Dance Company looked into what it called the "Heart of Woman" at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall on Saturday and found distinctive universal statements about the cost of survival.

For instance, Jane Dudley's 1938 "Harmonica Breakdown" imaginatively depicted resilience in hard times, with Nancy Colahan executing its recurrent stiff-kneed slide-walk so powerfully that slogging through adversity seemed gloriously heroic.

In the first of two 1941 "Dust Bowl Ballads" by Sophie Maslow, bouncy folk steps alternated with rough-hewn gestures that artfully amplified the pain in a song about becoming homeless. Maslow's second ballad grew more literal in its music-dance relationship, but the performance by L. Martina Young remained exemplary.

Mary Wigman's 1934 "Witch Dance" and Eleanor King's 1941 "Roads to Hell: Envy and Wrath" each plunged into ugly emotions and desperate energies with great conceptual daring. In the former, Bonnie Oda Homsey sustained the sense of an evil apparition. In the latter, Risa Steinberg caught the heat of emotions dangerously out of control.

Celebrations of womanhood came in Martha Graham's audacious 1934 ode to freedom, "Satyric Festival Song," and Joyce Trisler's 1957 balletic life cycle, "Journey." Both explored the unique shape and movement potential of women's bodies and found different forms of empowerment in the process. Janet Eilber gave Graham an almost childlike glee and Homsey brought a thoughtful refinement to Trisler.

Also danced Saturday: Graham's 1930 "Lamentation" and Anna Sokolow's 1948 "Kaddish," two definitive physicalizations of grief familiar from previous programs by the company (formerly named Los Angeles Dance Theatre).

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