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life & entertainment Friday, February  4

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Mostly warm performances took the chill out of DanceFest

Compiled from staff reports
Austin American-Statesman
Friday, February 4, 2000

A minimally heated Texas School for the Deaf Auditorium awaited audiences for the second annual Austin DanceFest last week. The cold was not beside the point, since 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the standard lowest temperature safe for dancing, due to the potential for injuries.

Jan. 26

The New Choreographers Showcase on opening night rapidly warmed the chilly auditorium. Dawnerin Larrimore's image-laden ``Shiver'' and ``Desensitize'' injected a rush of adrenaline. Jenna Weikerth's ``Communication Breakdown'' nicely paired two sets of dancers in contrasting movement. Melissa Santos' exquisite, close-to-the-floor ``Solitude'' isolated parts of her body, and it was performed until the final moment with her back to the audience. Allison Orr commenced ``Shoe Dance'' with humorous, bent-over locutions, but interest lagged during the final minutes while she sorted three piles of shoes.

Dawn Davis is a fresh, clever dance-maker whose ``How to Choreograph'' manipulated the hokeypokey. Then ``Silver Butterflies'' and ``Work'' demonstrated Davis' control of discrete groupings. Rebekah Davidson's elegant ``In Soundless Response'' laced together gorgeous patterns, but her fine dance was undermined, ironically, by poor sound quality.

The most sophisticated entry on the program was Outside the Box's ``Play,'' with its constantly elaborated variations on club dancing. After an awkward introduction, Laura Cannon's ``Inauguration at the Edge of a Cliff'' gracefully staged a multitude of disconnected, simultaneous scenes.

-- Michael Barnes

Jan. 27

Effortlessly charming, the Austin Scottish Country Dancers marched onstage to the sound of bagpipes, then jigged, reeled and waltzed to traditional-sounding music. Margery Segal divided ``Baby--Baby--Baby'' into three sections: Playing on the sound of the word ``baby,'' then noiselessly expressing emotion that approximated (to me) wonder, then reading a very long monologue about the first, troubled days of her newborn.

The Sumi Komo Dance Troupe, new to Austin, performed ``Inanna Mysteries,'' which appeared to be variations on ritual dancing, accompanied by singing and live instrumentation. The Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company devoted tremendous care to two dances, ``From Then Until Now'' and ``So Close,'' both quite lovely, gentle and pleasing.

Performers from Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks revived portions of Jos Bustamante's poignant ``Entre Lo Que Me Quieres y Te Quiero,'' based on the writing of Federico Garcia Lorca. I saw this haunting dance previously, and was required to review an event across town, and so I departed. That meant I missed Stillpoint Dance's ``Shadowing Profound Doubts,'' performed in memory of company member Tamara Barrington, who died Jan. 21 in an auto accident. Festival producer Chris Valentine reported that it was executed ``without any changes in choreography, and every once and a while, you could see glimpses of where (Barrington) was supposed to be."

-- Michael Barnes

Jan. 29

As if her movements were telling a secret that would change the destiny of humankind, Anuradha Naimpally commanded the stage with ``Dance of Joy,'' ``Invocation for Peace'' and ``Tillana,'' a spiritually seductive rendition of Bharata Natyam Indian dance.

Demure yet potent best describes the Austin Dance Ensemble's ``Selection From Voices Centered,'' created by Arletta Howard-Logan and danced with precision by a small troupe.

Ballet East mixed digeridoo music with dancers, dressed in ripped Tarzan outfits, who heaved and grunted. ``Encantada,'' created by Max Luna III, did little to honor aboriginal tribes. As expected, Kinesis Dance Theatre Project rose to its reputation as one of the city's most socially active dance companies in its gender-bending ``In the Name of

the . . . .'' A comedic yet profound look at perceptions of men and women, the performance exuded creativity in the name of social justice.

Heloise Gold and Friends' ``Dreamtime'' fell somewhat short of achieving its goal of marrying poetry and movement. Gold and partner Mike Arnold spent too much time posing instead of portraying the poet's message. A rather bizarre closing act from Ballet Austin featured impeccable dancing, atrocious costumes and rather one-dimensional choreography. ``Five Flights Up,'' made by Stephen Mills, reached a quick crescendo with its impressive lifts, yet failed to develop.

-- Kendall Klym

Jan. 30

The Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance troupe offered a mix of folk dance, pantomime and live music to open the show. Rut Gonzales showed her versatility by singing as well as dancing, in ``Bailes de las Monta as,'' a series of peasant dances and music from 17th-century Puerto Rico. Swingtips, a lindy hop group, made its DanceFest debut in an upbeat, fun exhibition of jazzy footwork and aerial moves. The dancers -- young, exuberant and athletic -- heated up the stage with nonstop moves. Kevin Greene's loose-limbed jauntiness and Evita Acre's sultry wiggles caught my eye.

Dance International, another festival newcomer, offered a glimpse of American ballroom dance in ``American Rhapsody.'' Sabrina Barker and Stewart Yaros led the long-limbed ensemble through perky displays of waltzes, Charleston and swing, all executed with polish and style. Roy Lozano's Ballet Folklorico de Texas presented crowd-pleasing regional dances of Mexico, while the Irish Dance Company provided a display of Irish stepdancing to bring the performance to a rousing close.

-- Sondra Lomax

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