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5/26/10
Pam Tanowitz at Danspace Project
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You have to wonder that if Pam Tanowitz were male, would she be twice as well-known as she is now? Her talent is at least as deserving as that of some of her male counterparts, and in fact the choreographers whose work hers occasionally elicits—Merce Cunningham and Mark Morris, to name a couple—are household names. In any case, her latest work, The Wanderer Fantasy (Dances 1 and 2), performed at Danspace Project last week, further etched her name into the “don’t miss” pantheon of contemporary New York choreographers.

Pam Tanowitz's CompanyThe SUNY Purchase Dance Corps performed Dance 1, augmented by Cunningham dancer Daniel Madoff, set to a taped score of music by Schubert and Liszt and performed before Philip Treviño’s cheap-chic set of squiggle-painted cardboard boxes. Though they may be students, the dancers showed a technical refinement and polish necessary to perform Tanowitz’s structured hybrid of modern and ballet that often evokes Cunningham. It is a natural fit on Madoff, and on Dylan Crossman, another Cunningham dancer who joins in later. Crisp right-angle arabesques and attitudes mix with contracted torsos and rocking pelvises in Tanowitz’s particular blend of casually formal and intentionally relaxed. Five pairs freeze in quasi-serious ballet poses; the group links arms and steps slowly, ceremoniously. The dramatic, romantic music is sometimes visualized, other times refuted. Black light set off the painted motifs, plus the white shirts and programs in the audience.

Three solos divide Dance 1 and 2. Brian Lawson, a darting, intense presence, dances until Anne Lentz enters carrying a potted plant. Her refined line and quick-paced solo shows how well-suited she is to Tanowitz’s style. Dylan Crossman’s solo contrasts with very slow developpés, tilts, and springy leaps. For his breathtaking exit, he held onto Lentz’s extended hand through the mylar-fringe curtain, at once otherworldly and poignant.

Tanowitz’s company of eight performed Dance 2, this time to Schubert played live by Alan Feinberg. Karen Young designed elegant one-sleeved tunics, black with yellow accents, were worn with beige tights by both genders. The choreographer’s deliberate movement was clearly supported by lots of rehearsal time, making everything—fast, slow, heavy, light—feel substantial. Moving in pairs and trios, the groups intersected, or danced in their own zones, and some expressionistic gestures added a human dimension to a pleasingly rigorous, formal, abstract work.

Image: Pam Tanowitz’s company. Photo by Julie Lemberger.

  • Ishmael

    I’ve also wondered about the gender disparity possibility when it comes to Tanowitz’s work. Her work is extremely well-crafted with attention to detail and design. She is very tuned into the musicality of her dances. That she isn’t better known has been a mystery to me. Last summer the American Dance Festival’s theme was “where ballet and modern meet” and I felt Tanowitz would have been a logical inclusion in that program.

  • nancy wozny

    I am glad to see you bring up the question of gender and success. We have grown too complacent on this issue and disparities continue to exist. Tanowitz most certainly deserves to be better known. Her work is lovely and important.

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