Corrections or additions?
This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the December 11, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Dance with a Conscience
In the aftermath of September 11, Americans everywhere
were drenched in a sense of great loss — a sense that was as unfamiliar
to most of us as it was disabling. Yet for some American immigrants
whose lives originated in countries and cultures where crippling violence
was all too familiar, the reaction was palpably different. These individuals
seemed to draw strength from learned habits of endurance and resolve,
strength that gave them hope for the future.
One such immigrant, Liliana Attar, artistic director of the Princeton-based
Connections Dance Theater, turned her grief into communal creativity.
The result is "Moving Forward," a multi-media dance drama
that will be presented Friday, December 13, at Princeton University’s
Hamilton Murray Theater.
Presented earlier in the year under the title "September 12,"
the work brings together the collaborative talents of choreographer
Liliana Attar, playwright Sonya Aronowitz, and mask-maker Laura Tabakman.
The dance drama’s new title more accurately describes its focus on
the demonstrated resilience of the human spirit and on the ways individuals
and society unite, rebuild, and renew in the face of loss.
Modern dance, tango, drama, poetry, music, video, and masks are brought
to serve the multi-media work that runs about 80 minutes without intermission.
An additional collaborative dimension comes from the company of strong
young dancers, many of them trained in Argentina, and many of whom
contribute their own choreography. These include the three lead men:
Jose Luis Basualdo, Gabriel Contreras, and Dardo Galleto. Additional
tango choreography is contributed by Galleto’s fine partner Karina
Romero, with dancer Silvana Brizuela Weigel.
Despite its upbeat message, Attar’s expressionistic dance theater
asks quite a bit of its viewers. Its theme of recovery demands as
much. The program opens with dark glimpses of the September 11 disaster,
and goes on to explore some of the smaller but no less devastating
domestic disasters that stalk families at all times.
Two scripts by Aronowitz represent the domestic side of things. Her
"Anonymous Gift or Peter’s Box" is a vivid chronicle of a
solitary character’s descent into depression and despair followed
by an arduous but purposeful recovery.
The story, which is read on tape, begins with the words: "And
so it happened… I lost my place in the world… One morning happiness
just lodged in my throat. It wouldn’t come out and my lips refused
to give it shape." Accompanying this compelling text is a terrific
solo by Gabriel Contrera, which opens on a slow and meditative note
as the bare-chested dancer focuses minutely on the lines of arm, shoulder,
and backbone. As protagonist Peter rises out of depression, Contrera
is joined by other performers who dance out the quintessential romantic
attraction and sensuality that keeps the world turning.
The second dance drama, "The Make Over," written by Aronowitz
and performed by Liliana Attar with daughter Nicole Attar’s voice
on tape, is an oblique telling of a story of domestic violence in
which a mother rationalizes but cannot disguise the facts of family
life to her young and inquisitive daughter. Movement is mostly mimed
here and but for the possibility that the pair will flee their menacing
household, this is the more frightening of the show’s two scripts.
Also featured is Pablo Neruda’s "Saddest Poem" — testament
to other troubles at other times — which accompanies the young
company’s ensemble dance. The poem is recited on tape both in Spanish
and in English translation.
The "Moving Forward" finale is titled "Hold the Door for
Others." It is inspired by Robert Fazio, a young man who lost
his father on September 11, and went on to found the Hold the Door
organization in his father’s honor. Performed by five figures in plain
dark unitards, embellished with fantastical and compelling masks suspended
from their costumes like the disembodied faces of suffering souls,
it closes the show on an apocalyptic note.
As a whole, the Connections company presents sustained elegance, fierce
concentration, and some technical fireworks in terms of athleticism
and isolation and articulation of limbs and spine. The October performance
I attended was presented on the small stage of the Sophie Fahs Theater
of the Unitarian Church, where the dynamic dancers showed great resourcefulness
in their determination to perform "all the jumps that fit."
This fall Attar, who trained at the National School of Dance in Buenos
Aires, launched Connections Dance Theater Center for the Performing
Arts; education director is Cory Ann Alperstein. Designed for people
of all ages, the center offers a student curriculum, guest artist
performances, and Saturday morning workshop series.
"Through the interactions and collaborations of students, staff
and professional artists, CDT hopes to build a dynamic community engaged
in the delightful process of communication, creative expression, and
entertainment," writes Attar in her mission statement. Offerings
include theater arts for children as young as four through high school
and world drumming classes for grades three and up.
Attar’s creativity and ability to gather an art community have made
her a positive force in our dance area. As she writes in her program
notes to "Moving On," "we strongly believe that the country,
and the world, needs to talk about the future instead of the past
in order to deal with loss."
— Nicole Plett
Theater, 609-895-2981. $15 adults; $10 children & seniors. Friday,
December 13, 8 p.m.
Princeton, 609-895-2981. For class information call or write Attarl@aol.com
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.