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Everybody Dance Now

Four shows, one weekend--and the broadest range of material thus far this season

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From ballet to performance art, covering a dizzying array of topics ranging from Sept. 11 to matrimony to plain bad acting: Brave souls in search of imagination--not to mention diversity--will be well rewarded if they venture out in any Triangle town on any night this weekend. A quartet of concerts in Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill will show us what over 15 of this region's brightest lights in dance have on their minds.

Here's the good news: Choose any or all of them. Even if the signal-to-noise ratio differs from show to show (and taste to taste), there's more than worthy work in all of them. You can't lose. Here's our preview: Choreo Collective's Current Collection at Chapel Hill High School shows continued growth and some exciting developments among this hive of dancer/choreographers. The comedies in this set are worth particular notice. This includes the strictly take-no-prisoners quartet in Caroline Williford's funny laundry-day fashion duel, Ready, and Susan Quinn's droll tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, Fully Furnished, whose extended-play version surfaced last weekend at Durham's Independent Dancemakers. But those in need of laugh-out-loud moments must consult Mrs. Someone, Suzanne Cantwell's rewarding salute to dating and marriage dos and don'ts. To classics by The Shirelles, Connie Francis and, of course, Miss Brenda Lee, a hopeful crew of Perfectly Nice Young Girls seek refuge in dance and drink in the face of less than suitable dates. The looks on their faces when they first open the door really says it all.

Our unfortunates, however, follow Disaster Dates with Worse Weddings, as bridesmaids commit hara-kiri with bridal bouquets, drink further, and then serve sentence in martial arts kitchens, before one, just possibly, figures out a way to freedom. Just maybe.

Also look for Alyssa Ghiradelli's synthesis of video image, music and choreography, Surface Tension, which is mesmerizing in places; Eight Files, the group's Merce Cunningham-like blindfold collaboration with composer Jim Schaeffer; and Cornelia Lee's intriguing solo, Second Nature.I said it last April, right here in the Indy: "There's no doubt Julee Snyder needs her own evening of work--but I couldn't tell you what it might begin to look like."

Well, now I can. Under the aegis of Postcards Project Dance Company, Snyder goes for it this Sunday night in Leggett Theatre, at Peace College. Why should experimental theater advocates, fans of performance art and those into the dance avant-garde all be interested in showing up?

"I was reading an art philosopher named Arthur Danto while I was making Fluxus Virus in 1998," Snyder recalls. "He said that Duchamp's 'readymades' [commercially available ceramic bathroom fixtures, like urinals, which the dadaist mounted in exhibitions of his work] signaled 'the death of art.' The irony I find in that is that so many other art forms were born from that influence."

For over two years, Snyder has been exploring the edges of theater, dance and performance art. She's excavated the movement research of Steve Paxton of New York's Judson Church contingent, reclaimed the mantle of the Fluxus art movement of the 1960s and its predecessors in Dada, and wondered about the intersection of text and the subconscious. In the process, she's challenged a few brave dance and theater folk (and audiences) to follow her, over what at times has, admittedly, been pretty rough pavement.

In short, Snyder's exploring places few others here seem willing to dare. Small wonder I've called her the shapeshifter, the trickster figure of our regional dance community--and, at present, the only one we have.

In Sunday's concert, Snyder presents her latest findings. In the premiere of Portrait #1, Snyder explores the transitivity of transit stations--which she terms "our modern rite of passage." She reprises last year's solo by Tiffany Rhynard, Root, and restages--and changes--Paxton's Flat which she reconstructed last year with regional contact improv guru David Beadle. A Fluxus Requiem to the Readymade, a performance art piece she showed last weekend at Durham's Independent Dancemakers' concert reappears, before a harbinger of things to come: collaborator Carol Kyles Finley's "Third Tree From the Left."

"Third Tree" is the opening bid from The Professional Series, an evening-length work based on different occupations. Postcards will present the work in toto this October.

Snyder's character in "Third Tree" is just that: a small character playing a small part in a big production. "But in it, I'm an artist who's not being allowed to express myself," Snyder confesses. "I have to sway in unison with the rest, and I just hate it."

"And then one of the other actors tells me that I'm ruining the production and that," she pauses dramatically, "I have quirky bark." Indignation--and laughs--ensue.Go ahead: Subtitle the spring Peace College Dance Company Concert "the return of the native." Famous itinerant choreographer/dancers Tiffany Rhynard and Christal Brown return from their respective gigs at Ohio State University and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company to show us what they've learned so far, Thursday through Saturday at Peace's Leggett Theatre.

Rhynard, who ran the Peace program before grad school beckoned, brings her French film of a solo, The Memory of Tomorrow, to the concert. Meanwhile, Brown's new work, Shattered Ifs, reflects her recent experiences both with Jones and with choreographer and community dance activist Liz Lerman. Though regional audiences will remember the sharpness of Brown's technique in both her solo work and with African American Dance Ensemble, this time her laser-like focus is more on content--and intent.

"I've asked them to focus on things that are breaking apart or cracking apart," she said when we talked to her this week. "Bill T. considers his studios his church, and the degree he makes himself available to the experiences of his text--it's very hard, when you break yourself open and make that much available to an audience."

"Since they're not professional dancers," Brown says, "I may not expect a lot of extreme technical ability. But I do expect their movements to be as true in performance as when it came out of them. That's the challenge."

While we talked, Brown revealed that Jones' new work in progress for this summer's ADF is based on a text by Flannery O'Connor, and that Jones is reassembling and revising one of the last century's most controversial dance works, Still/Here, for his company's 20th anniversary later on this year.

At Peace we'll also see new works from regional talents Lindsey Greene and Dena Guvetis, as well as the premiere of Chopped Southern Girl, Courtney Greer's satirical two-year meditation on Southern roots. The Oak Island, N.C., native's props include white gloves, a plate of grits and the wooden bowl her grandmother made biscuits with. "A lot of it's about the Southern call of duty--being mannerly," she said last weekend. "And that goes well beyond Emily Post and Miss Manners."

Peace also sees the revised and extended version of host Beth Wright's Here and Where? from last fall. Death, as it turns, is the beginning for a group of people in this work, inspired by the Arpillera Movement in Chile and a Chilean dance of protest called la cueca sola.

It's a time of vigils; some for war, some for peace. Some are being held on the North American continent. Others are taking place around the clock, in Europe and the Middle East.

One takes place this weekend on a darkened stage at Duke University.

Twelve people will stand in a ring at center stage--six couples, actually, who face away from each other at such a distance so that their extended hands just make contact. Their heads look down.

They're alone, together.

Choreographer Tyler Walters has been thinking about Sept. 11, 2001, and all that has come to pass since then. Thinking about the ways in which trauma simultaneously unites and isolates individuals, families, communities. Sometimes, even countries.

We see the result when Duke Dance presents Vigil, Walter's latest dancework, during its annual Ballet Choreolab concert this week. Parents of a former Duke student commissioned the work, challenging Walters to create based on the rarely heard Vespers of Sergei Rachmaninoff.

"Generally, Rachmaninoff is known as this arch-romantic," Walters says. "His work is very lush, and has sort of a nationalist flavor to it. This is much more austere, to me. It's liturgical music, using themes from Eastern Orthodox chant."

Three of Walter's colleagues from Carolina Ballet--Chris Rudd, Dameon Nagle and Britt Hillard--complete the corps in this world premiere.

"My images on stage always seem to inspire a number of different interpretations," Walters said "Initially, I was thinking about a pure dance piece, but Vigil is really a response to the music, and a response to what I've been feeling about our situation since 9/11. There's a community--but with a twist." Walters pauses. "Perhaps Vigil is ultimately a piece about contradictions."

For regional dancegoers, the watch begins Friday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3.Finally, Melissa Chris' astonishing new work, birdseye, proved one of the highlights of the Independent Dancemakers concert last weekend in Durham. But if you didn't catch it then, not to worry; you might be able to see it on Martha's Vineyard this summer when Chris is one of four participants in the monthlong Bessie Schönberg Choreographers and Dancers Residency at The Yard, a colony for performing artists. The residency concludes with a concert, Aug. 7-9. EndBlock

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