Photo by Chelsea Rowe

KUNST-STOFF: Preview of "Conversation-the American site

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Joanna Harris Choreographer Yannis Adoniou is going international. "Conversation - the American site", previewed at DanceAbout, March 12-15, is the first part of a two part work, the second to be built in Athens with the Greece based company ProsXima. Adoniou is a Greek-born artist, trained in Germany, whose work with KUNST-STOFF has been seen in San Francisco at Summerspace, ODC/SF, Theater Artaud and at various sites in Nevada and Northern California. The program copy tells us that "Kunst," in German, means art and "stoff" means things; therefore Kunstoff means synthetic, plastic, artificial or unnatural." There is nothing artificial about the company's work, though it is built, like German tanztheater, of many elements, and styles, "blending classical ballet, contemporary dance and athleticism." For "Conversation", Adoniou has included improvisation, dialogue, and mixed media elements including the remarkable live cello music of Moses Sedler and the soprano voice of Erin Neff. Anyone familiar with Pina Bausch's Tanztheater has experienced talking dancers. Here is S.F., we have heard Joe Goode talking. "Conversations" starts with each dancer telling us something about themselves or about an incident in their lives. Dancers move better than they speak and DanceAbout, a large gymnasium turned rehearsal space, did not help carry the dancer' voices. That will be corrected in other performing spaces, but it does muddle the underlying motivation of the pieces to explore aspects of American culture. The movement, postures, gestures and company interaction better carry that message. The dancers compete, listen to CD's, play copy-cat, pose, stroll, wear white rain gear while craftily displaying their bottoms and strive for technical performing excellence, sometimes referred to as "showing-off". All of the above are good American traits, not always characteristic of American adults, but known through the international youth culture. It will be fascinating to see what the Greek company brings to the experiment. Has globalization hit the dance world? One section was outstanding in focus and skill. Leslie Schickel and David Bentley perform a duet, he upstage of her, mirroring and echoing her movements and poses. She is involved with the slow motion seduction we associate with TV and movie stars and magazine models. She is the "it" girl. Bently is very skilled in both doubling Schickel's gestures and satirizing them, so that her presentation is both magnified and ridiculed. The "outsider" theme runs through the piece. Adoniou frequently sets on dancer away from the group ensemble to stand alone. This is another important American issue. The choreographic structure and spatial placement could strengthen and develop the individual against the group. The company, David Bently, Nicole Bonadonna, Dara Davis, Juliann Rhodes, Leslie Schickel, Nol Simonse, Hilary Curtis and Julian De Leon, are to be complimented on their creativity and ensemble. Sedler's cello playing drives the free swinging dance phrases and Erin Neff, not only sings beautifully, but takes stage as the tankini clad bathing beauty revealing in cosmetic schmears.