Monday, May 05, 2008

REVIEW: Dance Of Asian America: Easts Meets West

Miller Outdoor Theatre

April 26, 2008

A good-sized crowd gathered at Miller Outdoor Theatre to watch East Meets West, Dance of Asian America's (DAA) annual spring show. The East part included DAA and students from Mitsi Dancing School, while the West was represented by Ad Deum Dance Company, Revolve Dance Company , and Barbara King Dance Company. As a showcase event, this one went off splendidly. The evening clipped along at a steady pace, one piece right after another, displaying a healthy variety of dance forms. I left thinking that Chinese dance is larger than tossing fans and flying ribbons and that the East is not so far from the West. Modern dance contains influences from eastern forms, and DAA has a strong contemporary focus.

The mission of DAA is to present dances that represent China's diverse provinces and fuse contemporary dance with traditional forms. DAA selected pieces that represented the most contrast which included dances from Korea, Xing Jiang Province, and Tibet. Tong Rui Rui's jubilant Before the Storm demonstrated an engaging fusion between Chinese and contemporary dance forms. Solist Yifan Zheng danced with charisma, an amazingly supple back, and a marvelous flair with an umbrella. In colorful Himalayan garb, the DAA dancers stomped their feet and tossed their weight around in Tibetan Flares.

The disciplined students of Mitsi Dancing School danced works from Anhui and Yunnan (Miao Ethnicity) Provinces. Even when the fog machine went on high blast, these young dancers didn't miss a beat. Quite magically they reappeared with sunny smiles and perfect spacing.

Randall Flinn, artistic director of Ad Deum Dance Company, showed his lineage to classic modern dance in his new work, Walk of Promise, set to Clint Mansill's hypnotic score from the film The Fountain. Amada Parsons and Louis Harman, guest artists from Belhaven College, danced a tender duet. In Apology, Flinn draws Elton's John's soulful ode to the power of forgiveness, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” Eye-catching partnering characterized the duet elegantly danced by Shizu Yasuda and Alvin Rangel. Although Mighty Spirit looked derivative of Alvin Ailey, Rangel kept the crowd spellbound in his solo performance. Yasuda also lit up the stage in her solo, Penelope's Song, a work she also choreographed for the students of Mitsi Dancing School.

Revolve looked smokin' hot in their urban tap romp Mosquito's Tweeter, choreographed by Dawn and Matt Dippel and set to music by Nikka Costa. Matt Dippel's subtle style created a strong foil with the ensemble. Realm of Commonality, choreographed by Amy Cain to Yoshida Brothers' ambient music, brought a darker mood. The piece contained some sporadic bursts of clever movement but too many dead spots muddled the focus.

My only quibbles: Barbara King's Vegas style approach to ballroom seemed regretfully out of place; the program was missing choreography and music credits; a little more information for those of us not in the know about Chinese dance would have been appreciated; and the sound was too loud and distorted.

In these deeply divided times, leave it to the dancers to bring people (lots of them) together, and that they did at East Meets West. DAA should be commended for their outreach to the community and inclusion of Houston's modern dance community. It's a multicultural win/win for all.

Reprinted from Houston Dance Source