October 25th, 2013 | by AARON SPENCER Arts & Books | Posted In: Dance

Live Review: Northwest Dance Project, New Now Wow

nwdp_10-24-2013_058ver1fil2crpsmlBlaine Truitt Covert
Northwest Dance Project is an asset to Portland’s dance community, serving as an incubator for new choreographers and a presenter of the city’s often remarkable talent. That said, its current show, New Now Wow, really shouldn’t have “wow” in the title.

Not that the show is bad—far from it. The collection of three contemporary works by guest choreographers creates memorable moments and showcases considerable skill. But the show in general lacks the polish and drive that are both well within the company’s reach.

The nadir, fortunately or not, comes early with Loni Landon’s piece The Practice of Being Alone. Never mind that the examination promised in the title is indecipherable from the actual movement—it looks more like an exorcism than anything—but the piece is dull, slow and lacks direction. Backed by a score heavy on low humming cello, the dancers assemble and reassemble in small groups. A repeating tableau has two dancers seemingly holding a third back while yet another reaches toward the group like he’s trying to conjure a spirit (or maybe Vader them). Sometimes a dancer is left standing, doing nothing, before he turns and exits. At the piece’s end, my friend, an avid dance viewer, leaned over and whispered that the show should have been called “New Now Blah.”

Blaine Truitt Covert

 

The show picks up with the next piece, though, Danielle Agami’s This Time Tomorrow. Agami, a former member of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, is a practitioner of the Gaga technique (she started Gaga USA in New York), which entails disconnecting the mind from the body in order to create an organic movement that’s often wiggly and silly. Expectedly, This Time Tomorrow is a delightfully absurd piece. Viktor Usov slithers on his belly from stage right, using only his chin and hips to drag himself. Then more dancers start sliding on their backs from stage left. Out of nowhere, an orange rolls across the stage. The scene eventually devolves into a sort of insane asylum. The dancers, all wearing khaki, are apparently doing their own thing. Patrick Kilbane looks like he’s doing a tango with himself. Samantha Campbell crawls onstage carrying an orange in her mouth (the stage is covered with oranges by this point). Elijah Labay then tries to keep her from wandering off the stage into the audience. The song, the perky "Wondering" by Puerto Muerto, helps the loony-bin lobby feel.

Blaine Truitt Covert


The final piece, Malign Star by James Gregg, seems to have promise—it’s the most energetic of the set—but its execution is a little muddy. The dancers are dressed as sorts of Mad Max school children (they’re supposed to be “a band of orphans”) who dance in unison, with hip-hop flavor, to a thumping tribal track. Here and elsewhere in the show, the dancers struggle to stay in sync with each other. They all tend to move with slightly different timing, shapes and spatial consideration. If that’s somehow intentional to fit a relaxed style, it doesn’t work, as these segments are choreographed too tightly. In general, the movement has a lack of purpose. For example, the dancers’ feet are often neither modern, nor classical—just there.

The most notable exception is Ching Ching Wong, who dances with control and energy throughout. Usov, too, the company’s newest member, is a great addition, often wearing a dramatic face that injects life into bland choreography. These dancers are talented and the show has real sparks of creativity, but the choreography and movement can be more ambitious. New Now Wow isn’t wow, but it certainly has the potential to be.

SEE IT: Northwest Dance Project presents New Now Wow at Lincoln Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave., 421-7434. 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday, Oct. 25-26. $25-$39. Tickets here.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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