Gala yields a Collective leap forward

By Thea Singer,

Globe Correspondent, 9/22/2003

Dangling by a Thread Dance Collective 30th Anniversary Gala Concert
at: Tsai Performance Center, Boston; Friday

There's something about a performance by dancers who've grown old together that settles your soul. Up on stage aren't just people executing clever movements and tossing about wacky props; there's also a histirical presence: a sense of the blood, sweat, tears, and laughter that have bound the participants together over the years. They give the show a depth- a kind of kinestetic poignance-that overrides the merits and the shortcomings of the dances themselves.

Such was the case with Dance Collective's 30th Anniversary Gala Concert. It was an occasion to bid farewell to Dawn Kramer, the last of the troupe's founders to step down …The concert featured eight dances (six by Kramer) and three video segments, including two retrospectives comprising excerpts from the archives of the company's more than 150 works…What rose to the fore was the staying power of some of the company's most idiosyncratic offerings and the sheer ingeniousness of some of the new and recent ones.

The highlight of the evening was "Walk in Progress" (2001), with video shot and edited by Antony Flackett and Sabrina Zannella-Foresi. The dance, choreographed by Kramer and Sean Curran, is actually a quartet: for Kramer (live and on video) and Curran (only on video) and musician John Clark, who plays double bass live on stage. It's a wonder of media-mixing that explores, both thematically and technically, the distinction between illusion and reality: Curran and Kramer dance alone and together as projections. Kramer, live, teams up with the celluloid Curran. Their steps, literally worlds apart, are so in sync that he can actually bump her away with his derriere and send her flying. They clump and tap, zip hither and yon, their feet becoming as much a part of the score as Clark's notes. But there's more here than meets the eye; there's a story (in fact, two) that meets the heart. Walking - and the inability to walk - becomes a metaphor for risk and change.

Kramer's ''Bits and Pieces, #1, #2, #3,'' (1977) displays the power in economy. Blink and this hilarious social commentary on the perils of domesticity is gone. In #1, Michael Shannon, who danced with the company from 1980 to 1982, returns as a businessman in a rush. Ann Brown Allen, a company member since 1978, pushes a shopping cart nonchalantly, her blond wig and fake fur floating after. In #2, Shannon, now bound in Saran Wrap, sits rigid in the cart, replacing the groceries. Brown, still pushing the cart, has shed her fur in favor of a black slip. The implications are many: Modern couples as ships passing in the night. Spouses - and sex - as commodity. The ties that grind us - down.

"De/Reconstruction" (premiere), a solo for Kramer to a sound score by Kevin Pelrine, explores the breakdown of expectations. Kramer's bow to thunderous applause devolves now into a full-body shudder, now into a fragmented dip, as if a strobe light were fracturing the move. The piece shows how thin the line is between fulfillment and terror, fluidity and the breaking point. But it offers hope too: through the wisdom garnered from experience, it seems to say, we can learn to amend what we wish for and reach for the light.

It's a fitting message with which to celebrate the changing of the guard at a modern dance company that has become - surpassingly, for this town, - an institution.

® Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.