How does one develop into an accomplished dancer? What is the necessary progression from the most elementary crawl to the authoritative complexity of a fully stretched leap? These concerns about the origins of movement are what occupy Dutch choreographer Pauline de Groot in her hour-long "Yellow Whale," presented Saturday and yesterday at The Dance Place. Each portion of "Yellow Whale" tests another step or body part. For example, one section centered on the shoulder sockets, testing how far they open and rotate, and examining the logical movement consequences of extending them to their fullest. Each segment begins with this slow exaggerated assay and progresses to include virtuosic balances, stretches and turns in complex rhythmic interactions.
De Groot studied and worked in New York in the '60s, and a trace of the influences on her choreography reads like a who's who of American modern dance. The sensitivity and ease of the dancers testify to the non-negligible impression Erick Hawkins has had in their training. However, the de Groot dancers add a tang of slight muscular resistance so that they appear to be moving through a viscous medium. The brief rest the dancers took in view of the audience is reminiscent of Merce Cunningham's on-stage intermissions. Contact Improvisation, developed as an outgrowth of the Judson dance movement of the '60s, was the authority behind the sexless, easy, liquid partnering.
The de Groot dancers are an unassuming but engaging ensemble. De Groot herself is extremely intense and concentrated, providing a provocative juxtaposition with Julyen Hamilton's joyful play and Sara Vogeler's dancerly quietude. Particularly noteworthy was David Woodbury's wonderfully bewitching solo of quick changes in energy and direction and difficult breaks in emphasis, phrasing and momentum. The percussion score performed by Bart Fermie and Matthieu Keyzer betokened the mysteriousness of the whale's environment to which de Groot refers in a program note.