Battleworks Dance Company
‘Alleluia,’ 'Takademe,’ ‘The Hunt,’ ‘Rush Hour,’ ‘Mood Indigo,’ and ‘Strange Humors’
by S.E. Arnold
July 10-13, 2003 -- Doris Duke Studio Theatre at Jacob's Pillow, MA
As if to celebrate the arrival of his newborn company, artistic director Robert Battle opened the Battleworks Dance Company concert given in the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob's Pillow with 'Alleluia.'
Set on three male
and four female dancers wearing white, clerical looking costumes, the
mood, movement, and choice of Baroque music -- J. S. Bach, Handel, and
Scarlatti -- of 'Alleluia,' choreographed by Battle in 2002, echo the
mood, movement, and music of Paul Taylor's 'Esplanade.' Respectfully irreverent,
the work shapes pedestrian movement, such as running and a host of worshipful
gestures ranging from clasped hands to shaking and foot pounding, into
a jubilant and artful look at spiritual exultation. While the asymmetrical
groupings of dancers shun analogy to the symmetries of 18th century harmony,
the near limitless articulations of limbs, torso, hands, and groupings
of dancers readily equals the contrapuntal facilities and melodic aspects
that are the signature of the music of that century. And, like Baroque
music, one loses oneself in the works of Robert Battle by its welcoming
craft rather than by an overwhelming volume of material.
Dance phrases, for instance, converged with musical phrases; and, like lightning, dramatic articulations of the body visualized thunderous rhythms. Yet, there is more. The negative hype that so easily follows upon the label of Mickey Mouse-ing in the works of Battle (and others 'guilty' of this sin) turns instead into a positive value. The convergences described, for example, provide an aesthetic compass that allows viewers to both know then ignore where they are granting them clearance to experience Battle's work in a multitude of directions.
Such assuring freedom
is necessary for there is little in the music that predicts, for instance,
the free-fall conclusion of 'Rush Hour' -- a work set on five female and
two male dancers to music for strings and percussion by John Mackey. Neither
does the music predict Battle's use of movement to imitate things or concepts,
such as a house in the 'Sour Heart' section of 'Mood Indigo' (music again
by Mackey) or a clock in ‘Rush Hour.’ Nor does the music guarantee Battle's
abundant use of familiar gestures such as those of worship in 'Alleluia,'
courting and breakup in the 'Bitter Jig' section of 'Mood Indigo' and
'Strange Humors' (music also by Mackey), or his equally abundant quotations
of popular and formal dance forms, such as the tango, in 'Strange Humors,'
Bharata Natyam in 'Takademe,' and African dance in 'The Hunt.' Nevertheless,
the movement meets the music in Battle's works in an intensely satisfying
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