Art inspires half of MDT program

  • Article by: CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 8, 2011 - 6:14 PM

Review: Frida Kahlo and Auguste Rodin inform two dances, alongside a world premiere by Hope Boykin.

Minnesota Dance Theatre, in its hefty, variegated spring concert at the Lab in Minneapolis, offers five pieces, including a world premiere by Hope Boykin, in 2 1/2 hours. The results are mixed.

Boykin, who dances with and has choreographed for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, debuts a full-company work titled "MOVEments." It gets off to a dreadful start. First of all, spare me the half-capitalized, glaringly obvious title. It's like calling a painting "PAINTing." And who thought it wise to call for matching gray and mauve dropped-crotch onesies -- M.C. Hammer costuming that obscures our view of, I don't know, the dancers' legs? Then there is the music, a soundscape of dings, dongs, rings, gongs and kerplops.

The 11 dancers fall out of a straight line, Rockettes-style, and give us some jazzy arms and shoulder rolls. The piece picks up steam and lays down lovely dancing with smaller groups in loose triangles, squares and ovals. The music becomes more propulsive. There's some fashion-runway cockiness, a few disco moves, even a bit of ballroom and country clogging.

In one fun sequence, saucy Sarah Fifer fires off a fast little solo and interacts with four male dancers with casual poise. The piece lets the ensemble shine and, thankfully, doesn't try to tell a story. Somehow, these spirited dancers make it work.

Arvo Pärt's icy music sets a somber tone in the opener, "Bred in the Bone." Choreographed by Lise Houlton, MDT artistic director, the work calls for 11 black-clad dancers to each bring a folding chair to a darkened stage. Rising from isolation, interactions begin on and over the chairs, segueing to a lovely series of male-female duets: Justin Leaf and Christina Marchiori; Kevin Iverson and Katie Johnson; Raina Gilleland and Sam Feipel. In this final pairing, a gorgeous moment emerges when Feipel slowly turns the long-necked, graceful Gilleland on one toe, her spotlit arms in the air.

Three works inspired by artists fall short of either of these two bigger ensemble dances. Wynn Fricke's 1997 "Ibuki" features four dancers in sheer white outfits, often frozen in poses reminiscent of bodies excavated from Pompeii. What scant focus there was at the outset was completely lost by the end.

More sculptural poses abound in the Rodin-inspired "Digging for Clay" by Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner. Gilleland, in the role of Camille Claudel, is the standout in this overly literal piece. She can swoon when partnered with Iverson, but she's no pushover.

"Two Fridas," premiered in 2000 and performed again in 2005, may safely be retired. Same for the evening's finale, a piffle of a comic ballet by Frederick Ashton.

Claude Peck • 612-673-7977

  • MINNESOTA DANCE THEATRE

    What: Choreography by Wynn Fricke, Lise Houlton, Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner and Hope Boykin.

    When: 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.

    Where: The Lab, 700 N. 1st St., Mpls.

    Tickets: $29, 612-333-7977, labtheater.org.

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