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March 23, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 12
 
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Delight in many forms, by the Sydney Dance Company
Delight in many forms, by the Sydney Dance Company
by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Just when you think you've see about every expressive gesture the human body is capable of, along comes Sydney Dance Company. Novel movement by athletic, young dancers was just one of the delights offered in this program at Meany Hall for three nights last week.

Once could have enjoyed the evening quite well even with eyes closed, for the music for piano was ever fascinating and lovely. Pianist Scott Davie, seated at the Steinway on stage with the dancers, did full justice to an incredible variety of no less than twenty works (or parts thereof). Indeed, this program was a kind of homage to music for the piano. The largest set structure was in fact a curved enclosure that surrounded and molded itself in the shape of the grand. This bottomless structure at times was raised on cables high above the stage, and other times opened up to become a backdrop to the action on the stage.

Piano and pianist were often moved around the stage by the dancers. Judicious amplification made the piano unusually warm and rich. At one point, a video camera was focused on the keyboard and strings, so that a pleasantly soft projection of same appeared on a scrim. Projections and lighting were imaginatively employed throughout the evening. One of the twenty musical selections was played directly on the piano strings themselves (Henry Cowell's "The Banshee").

As you can tell, the program, called simply 'Grand,' was anything but ordinary. But novelty, by itself, can become overkill. Most of the numbers also had heart, genuine expression, and sometimes humor and playfulness. Unfortunately, the few selections that didn't work so well came bunched together near the end of the program. "La Valse" by Ravel, in particular, was lacking in impact, especially if you are accustomed to Balanchine's original version.

'Grand' was 85 minutes long with no intermission. Conceived and choreographed by company director, Graeme Murphy, it made one wish we could see more of the Sydney Dance Company in Seattle.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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