Simone Forti, one of the persisting survivors of the anti-theatrical dance radical the American University this weekend ism of the '60s, was seen in performance at With her was a cone collaborator, musician ground on the clarient, soprano saxophone, exotic percussion and a manually controlld electronic device.
Together they presented "Big Room," a small number of simple, basic motifs, both study in pure shape and sonority. From a movement and ound envolved through slow permutations into larger forms spanning extensive swaths of space and time.
The performance had more the aspect of a dispassionate exploration than of an attempt at "expression" or display. Forti, small and chunky, wearing a tank suit, went about her tasks in a dead-pan, matter-of-fact manner that precluded dramatic or emotional overtones.
Balance and momentum were among Forti's central concerns. She would start from a seated position, for example, and slowly teeter over into a series of rolls, emphasizing those points of equilibrium between descent and upswing. From a standing position with feet apart, she would sway from the waist in a deep arc, shifting her weight from one leg to the other and letting the motion carry through to its end points in a kind of pendular swing. Another series of supine rolls, back and forth, suggested a twisting and untwisting of coiled twine. One more elaborate sequence, repeated many times along different directions, involved a quick initial run, a few one-foot hops, a soft backward fall, and some jerky, frog-like kicks with bent legs.
Forti has derived many of her movement patterns from the observation of animals. Besides the frog-kicks, for instance, there a supple, arching spine and forearms molded like paws. Forti had an incredible smoothness and finesse in these movements, limbs and back duplicating in minute detail the unconscious grace of her models. Van Riper's music veered toward the jungle at these points, too, taking on a semblance of screeches or howls.
At other times, Forti's movement seemed abstracted from sports, as in a sequence evoking the wind-up, swing and follow-through common to various ball games.
I'm not sure all of this added up to more than a laboratory exercise in the morphology of natural movement, and the repetition grew quite tedious after a while. But there's no question that Forti's skill and exactitude are worth beholding.