12-step program at the Fountain

Times Staff Writer

The intimacy of the Fountain Theatre makes its annual Festival of Solos and Duets an ideal way for audiences to explore dance forms that might seem intimidating in a larger venue.

On Saturday, for instance, the magical incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu could be viewed only a few steps from the front rows in Trisha Banerjee’s fresh and detailed performance of S.K. Rajaratnam’s solo “Ten Forms.” All the hallmarks of classical Indian dance suddenly gained new warmth, with Banerjee’s dramatic facial transformations becoming as prominent as her percussive steps.

Similarly, pieces about relationships became unusually powerful because, for once, we were nearly as close to the dancers as they were to one another -- part of the family. The 12-part Fountain program Saturday offered plenty of modern-dance examples.


“Connections” celebrated the instinctive physical and emotional rapport of longtime partners Roberta Wolin-Manker and Robert Whidbee, the duet’s choreographers and performers. In contrast, Donna Sternberg’s “Kinship” found joy in dancers’ acts of discovery as Diana Ricotta and Tracey White blended as a team and shared that pleasure with the audience.

At once a jazz showpiece and a battle for dominance, Bob Boross’ “Love Me or Leave Me” cleverly set Jessica Summers’ statuesque authority against Spencer Smith’s antic versatility: an endearing mismatch.

More serious conflict dominated Robin Kish’s forceful “Threshold,” in which Stephen Di Schiavi and Christine Marshall artfully portrayed the tensions of a couple becoming a true family. Blending speech and movement, Meri Bender’s compassionate “Sequela” used Elizabeth Ince and Don Bondi to depict an aging, troubled woman’s reliance on a man who may have been only a memory -- or a ghost.

Happier ghosts turned up in Aida Amirkhanian’s quirky, convivial “La Donna,” coming to life whenever Amirkhanian put on old hats and evoked their original wearers. The interplay of past and present also shaped two somber solos: Rei Aoo’s bold balletic evocation of a lost love, “The Very Last Time,” and Hsiu-Ping Wang’s ambitious fusion of traditional and contemporary views of Chinese women, “Spring Wind.”

A modern-dance experiment in which playing cards seemed to determine Yvette Wulff’s actions and dominate her consciousness, Diana MacNeil’s “Just Go Away With My Hat” remained one of the enigmas of this seventh annual festival. Laurie Cameron’s “Isle and Dyad” also left plenty of unanswered questions in its juxtaposition of Daniel Senning’s fearful solo with a combative Marla McClure-Jerrad Roberts duet -- both choreographies focused on folding metal chairs.

Completing the program, Deborah Brockus’ “Love Duet,” which one night earlier had looked impressive at the Alex Theatre with the same dancers (see “Split” review, Page 2), revealed a whole new inner life up close at the Fountain.