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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 24, 2006

UH spring concert a complete package

By Carol Egan
Special to The Advertiser

UH dancers perform the piece "Soaring" as part of the UH dance concert.

Karis Lo photo

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8 p.m. today-tomorrow, and 2 p.m. Sunday; free preshow events at 7 p.m. tomorrow

Kennedy Theatre

$15 general; $13 seniors, military, UH faculty/staff; $10 students; $4 UH-Manoa students


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Sometimes, the highlights of a dance concert are the performances. Other times, it's the innovative choreography or the opportunity to revisit dances of the past. This spring's dance concert at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, which opened last weekend, delivers all the above.

Of particular interest was a suite of early works from the art-nouveau period, first choreographed between 1919 and 1936. Staged by Mino Nicolas and under the rehearsal direction of Betsy Fisher, assisted by Diane Letoto and Chansri Green, three pieces for women choreographed by Ruth St. Denis and Doris Humphrey, and a male solo by Ted Shawn came to life again.

Especially charming were the dancers in "Soaring," created in 1919. Led by Maryann Peterson, the five damsels, sporting platinum wigs and flesh-colored leotards, lifted and swept a bounteous swath of China silk forward and back, up and down, creating illusions of fountains, clouds and ocean. It was particularly beautiful as it spilled over the edge of the stage and rippled back up like waves on the shore. The constant flow of material created a rich visual pattern enhanced by the effective, though at times too obvious, lighting.

In "Hoop Dance," Rosemary Summers, clad in a short, gauzy tunic, seemed to come straight from a Ziegfeld Follies production. Stepping coyly through the hoop, enfolding it with her torso or arching over it, she created an authentic art-nouveau look.

Morgan Cloud's male solo presented an assertive "Banner Bearer," a dance created by Ted Shawn in 1936. Staged by Gregg Lizenbery, the short work featured a long, flowing banner that fluttered about the dancer, encircling him like a snake or whipping forward or back, resembling liquid calligraphy. A similar effect was achieved in Doris Humphrey's 1919 "Scarf Dance," performed by Marissa T. Yogi.

Alwin Nikolais' "Tensile Involvement," premiered by his New York company in 1953, intrigued through the dancers' manipulation of eight long elastic bands stretching from high in the wings to the opposite side of the stage. Fascinating and ever-changing linear designs were created by the rapid displacement of dancers, rushing across, up and downstage.

Other fine individual performances included the opening hula, in which the only male dancer, Kaulana Yoshizumi, stood out for his presence and precision, and a trio of dancers in Eve Walstrum Sanders' finely crafted "Circle of Themes," a revival of a work originally created in 1993. Set to Brahms' "Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn," it showcased the technical skills of Chansri Green, Celia Chun Wright and Mayuko Ayabe.

Although Sanders' choreography is based on traditional ballet, it never appears to be formulaic. She develops original material within the classical vocabulary and is one of the most musical choreographers in this community. Without literally Mickey-Mousing the music, the dancers echo internal rhythms and subtle motifs in the score.

Two premieres rounded out the evening: Betsy Fisher's witty "some ideas about light" explored many possibilities of illuminating dancers in a humorous fashion, and "Tangrams" featured large geometric shapes manipulated by a bevy of dancers.