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When Styles Converge and Diverge
Molissa Fenley and Friends at the 92Y
Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times
March 29, 2010

 Watching pieces by choreographers who have all worked with an influential mentor is a little like seeing a family. In a certain light, or at a certain angle, in the way a head tilts or someone stands, you spot the resemblances clearly. At other moments independence prevails.


“Molissa Fenley and Friends,” seen at the 92nd Street Y on Friday night, offered a full program of mostly new work by Ms. Fenley and three choreographers linked to her in some way. Paz Tanjuaquio and Nora Chipaumire have danced with Ms. Fenley’s company; Penny Hutchinson worked with her during a residency in 2008 and again last year.

The marvelous “Silence and Dreams,” a duo by Ms. Chipaumire and Fred Bendongué, a French choreographer, was most like Ms. Fenley’s work in its intent, austere focus, and most unlike it in its fantastical aesthetic. Ms. Chipaumire and Mr. Bendongué — both utterly present and compelling — fold and unfold their bodies amid a flower-strewn landscape, sometimes coming together, but more often keeping apart in a surreal, poetic world of memory and infinite time.

Ms. Hutchinson’s new “Standing Anywhere,” performed by Shannon Tallman and Kai Berkdahl, began in silence with sculptural lunges and stretches and moved into a muddier section of quick jumps and mobile footwork (to music by Michael Bajuk). It didn’t add up to much, and neither did Ms. Tanjuaquio’s “Divide,” a pleasant enough duo (danced by Ms. Tanjuaquio and Chia Ying Kao to music by Todd Richmond) that looks something like Ms. Fenley’s work, although a more fluid idiom animates the deliberate, clear style and matter-of-fact presentation.

Ms. Fenley presented two works. The new “94 Feathers” is set to an electronic score of squawks and burbles by Cenk Ergun and features props created by Merrill Wagner: narrow metal strips holding eagle feathers and a section of curved fencing. Ms. Fenley, Katie McGreevy and Cassie Mey carry the strips around, placing them on the floor or exchanging them as they move through slow revolutions, meditative crouches and light, skimming jumps.

Despite the performers’ air of purpose, “94 Feathers” feels frustratingly opaque. Not so “Double Beginning,” a solo created last year and reworked as a trio. Here the discrete, clear shapes Ms. Fenley makes, the way ballet steps are executed without balletic impulses (the body follows the shape, instead of defining it), and the shifting patterns of the movement exert a peculiar fascination. The words of the poet Bob Holman, who stands speaking among the dancers, seem right: “When it’s pure dance, it’s pure faith.”

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