Barry's Dance Review

The Top Ten Reasons I Qualify as a Dance Reviewer


"The E-Mail Dances: version 1.0 alpha"

Louise Reichlin & Dancers
a performance company of Los Angeles Choreographers & Dancers
World Premiere at Bovard Auditorium, USC 4/24/96

Written, directed, choreographed by Louise Reichlin
Video Artist: Michael Masucci.

Utilizing a variety of Internet resources as a creative springboard, choreographer Louise Reichlin has launched herself into cyberspace and returned with an innovative and entertaining multimedia performance piece. While not breaking any new choreographic ground, the synergy between technology and human bodies in motion was always intriguing. The combination of large screen video projection, well-chosen recorded music, crisply executed dance, and Ms Reichlin's charming narration provided a constant, and occasionally overwhelming, flow of images and information.

Ms Reichlin spoke, keyboard on lap, perched on a large blue ball. She began by briefly detailing her techno-evolution; from wrestling with frustrating UNIX commands to the joy of point 'n' click web surfing. From what followed, it was clear that her attraction to Macs and modems is simply as tools in the service of personal, emotion-driven goals. It is this territory of feelings that is explored within the five sections of the E-Mail Dances:

Yellow Star - Klezmer Conservatory Band, Lyrics: M. Oysher/ Music: traditional
Danced by Tamara Dowling, April Murray, Jo Ellyn Musser, Morgan Williams, Amy Hoffmann, Ken Arata, and Libbey Blumberg

Symbol of the Polish ghetto, the Yellow Star reflects Ms Reichlin's search by Internet genealogical databases for her Jewish roots. Seven dancers holding long wide strips of yellow-gold fabric, interpret stylized moves à la Fiddler on the Roof. Weaving and intertwining, they end the piece by sequentially placing the strips on the floor to form the six-sided star. At the same time, an overhead shot of the same dance is being projected on the rear screen. The combination of elements vividly evoked memories of the once vibrant culture and it's devastating demise.

Re-Relative? - Based on actual messages. This monologue chronicles her e-mail search for lost relatives. Accompanied by projected images from her family album, she recounts her luck in finding heretofore unknown cousin Larry in Pennsylvania. Together, they enthusiastically attempt to recreate an accurate family history. Reading his messages and mock-typing her responses, we learn much about the Reichlin family, and can readily identify, but are eventually buried under an avalanche of names, dates, places and relationships.

Woman in a Room, Woman in the Moon - Music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn

Danced by Tamara Dowling

My favorite section! This short video starts blandly, in de-saturated color, as we peer over the shoulder of a woman as she surfs the web. The magic of video eliminates the annoying wait for loading as a rapid succession of screen shots are shown. Appropriately, they are all dance-related sites. (They go by so quickly I missed DANCE!90210) Just as this conceit is wearing out its welcome, an astronomical page appears with images of comet Hyakutake, galaxies, etc. As one more ethereal scene begins to load on her monitor, she raises her hands together. The hands follow the JPEG image as it slowly scans down the screen.

As the final pixels appear, FLASH! Brilliant colors appear, as the woman hyper-dives through the monitor into the gravity-free realms of deep space. The low-rent EFX, no Toy Story budget here, does not at all dampen the contagious euphoria of dancer Dowling as she flies, cartwheels, jetés, spins and waxes ecstatic across the dramatic spacescape. The final image is an overhead shot of her tiny computer cubicle, the empty desk chair spinning. Very cool.

Contest - Music by Alfred Desio
Danced by Allison Higa & Ken Arata

Intrigued by how singles become couples through chat rooms, Newsgroups, BBSes, etc., Ms Reichlin created a duet exploring what happens when an athletic female places an online personal ad in search of an equally fit male. What ensues is a physically demanding encounter, that begins warily as the two participants in this mating match alternately display their athletic prowess while checking each other out. The distance between them gradually decreases. Urged on by natural attraction and the pounding score, the woman becomes the aggressor with running leaps onto his back. The romantic hand-to-hand combat, the stylized acrobatics and wrestling were dynamically performed by Higa and Arata.

Remembrance- Music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn and Michael Brooks
Danced by Morgan Williams

The final section begins with Ms Reichlin speaking about the passing of her father and the eventual disposition of his ashes. Ms Williams appears as a tall, lithe, white-shrouded ashen-masked spectre of Death (wearing a mysterious headpiece, that vaguely suggests a satellite dish and should probably be re-thought). With gestures ghostly and frantic she sets free the souls of two bodies, one bearing the yellow star, providing a link between the many deaths of the Holocaust and the singular death of the father.

The beta version of The E-Mail Dances will be performed at Barnsdall Park on June 3. It will be interesting to watch as this ambitious project evolves towards its final release.

© 1996 by B. L. Weiss


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