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A mixed reaction as dance troupe kicks off new season

Buffalo Contemporary Dance kicked off its 10th anniversary season at the new ALT Theatre with a mixed repertory concert that revealed some of what has garnered the troupe a loyal audience over the past decade and some of the inconsistencies that have perhaps kept that audience from growing.

The program Saturday night featured four works by the group's co-artistic directors, Amy Taravella and Leslie Wexler, along with two by guest choreographers Janet Reed and Kerry Ann Ring.

It began with Wexler's "To Russia With Love (for Galitchka)," a work for four women that referenced Russia's legendary frigid winters. Set to a very catchy tune by Russian country/bluegrass group Kukuruza, the dancers shivered and rolled in and out of winter coats strewn across the stage floor, sweeping low to the ground and tumbling over each other in Wexler's easygoing and flowing choreography. Except for a poorly acted barroom brawl, the work was engaging and performed capably.

Reed's solo work "War and Peace" followed and featured Taravella in a long, shimmery dress performing to Ryuichi Sakamoto's socio-political soul music, asking the question: "Is war as old as gravity?" Reed's choreography was an unusual mix of torment and sensuality that Taravella embodied marvelously via aggressive and expressionistic movements coupled with an alluring grace, giving one the sense of an inner emotional battle Taravella was waging.

The program's first half then closed with excerpts from Taravella's evening-length "Bikini Launch." In it, Taravella sought to reveal the societal pressures women feel to look good. A tripped-out sort of 1960s counterculture dance theater piece, "Bikini Launch" looked more like an improvisation exercise gone astray. Three performers portraying bizarre characters meandered and doodled about the stage playing with props in loose choreography. Although the work got away from any meaningful statement on society and its fixation on beauty, the work's saving grace was a modicum of humor and the performance of dancer Angela Christina Lopez, who had a fresh and unique way of moving.

The program got back on track in the second half with one of BCD's best works to date, and one of the best anti-war statements in dance I have witnessed in my many years as a dance critic. Wexler's solo work "Come When I Call You" set to music by the Klezmatics with lyrics by Woody Guthrie, featured Taravella in a well-crafted movement journey that paralleled Guthrie's powerful and poetic lyrics. Taravella was spot on in intensity and emotion, dancing Wexler's expressive and gesture-laden contemporary choreography that revealed striking images of conflict at every turn. The work's most vivid and lasting moment came with Taravella crawling on her hands from the rear of the stage down a corridor of light dragging her lifeless legs behind her, illustrating the high costs of war.

After Ring's light and airy group work "Carpe Diem" that showcased a large group of student dancers, the program concluded with another Wexler gem, the work in progress "Rapid Motion Through Space Elates One." Seven dancers in a track meet of modern dance movement swirled and spun about the stage in interweaving and clever choreography that was like watching light dance on a pool of water. Full of energy and drive, the work's seven dancers gave a gutsy performances ending Buffalo Contemporary Dance's largely successful program on a high note.


Dance Review

Buffalo Contemporary DanceSaturday and Sunday in ALT Theatre, 255 Great Arrow Ave., Third floor. Program repeats with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 868-6847 or call

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