Back in the '30s and '40s, it was okay to make dances about social issues. Charles Weidman lashed out at racism in his "Lynchtown"; Hanya Holm's "Trend" explored the plight of the industrial worker; and Doris Humphrey's "New Dance" trilogy chronicled a world struggling toward utopian harmony. But these days, choreography about causes or current events is considered gauche, out of fashion. An artist has to be pretty courageous to grapple with injustice while others work in patterns and concepts and grids.
Local teacher Martita Goshen's dances about endangered species are brave and haunting proof that movement can be just as powerful a communicative tool as any speech, news story, photo or film. Her Earth Day solo concert at St. John's Church, both a celebration of and elegy for four vanishing breeds -- sea turtle, seal, wolf and whale -- worked on two levels: as political statement and as art.
The tall, elegant Goshen presented her subjects in poetic, non-imitative ways. As turtle, she darted about to Mozart, made much use of her flippers and emanated an aura of elation and freedom. Her whale thumped its chest, then shuddered as harpoon lodged in its gut.
David Anderson's "Elegy" cast the dancer as a mother seal who witnesses the clubbing of her pup. The futility of the situation was expressed in sheltering movements and deep lunges and bows. And most tragic of all was the wolf, who listened and scratched itself and ran so hard and so long to escape a pack of hunters that it expired in the process.