The piece de re'sistance of last night's American University dance concert at Clendenen Theatre was the premiere of a work called "The Little Rubik of Riding Hood," created for AU students by guest choreographer Nina Wiener.
Wiener, who was a member of the Twyla Tharp company and formed her own New York-based troupe in 1976, is widely regarded as one of the most interesting choreographers of the "post-modern" generation. She was in residence at AU for a month, working intensively with the students. It paid off in spades. The nine dancers in "Rubik" sustained a level of performance--crackling with purpose, sharp in profile--not matched elsewhere in the evening, which otherwise remained in the category of regulation academic showcase.
A program note indicated that "Rubik" was intended as an exercise in problem-solving, involving such areas as isolation of body parts, arm and leg translations, and the functioning of large groups--in this case, which isn't often the rule, the choreography actually corresponded to the description. The dancers were clad individually, in fatigues, gym shorts, street clothes, a Robin Hood outfit, a tutu, a Red Riding Hood costume, and so forth, and bits of movement material showed up relating to each of these, e.g., salutes, pushups, brisk walks. In the case of the tutu, there was an actual excerpt from the Cygnets dance in "Swan Lake." Other clusters of movement motifs--thrusts, rotations and flaps of the arms, for example--also pervaded the composition, which was orchestrated into a wonderfully dry, witty, graphic puzzle. In its overall aspect, moreover, "Rubik" also managed to suggest the ubiquitous Cube, with its mysterious twists bringing sudden order out of chaos.
The program note also remarked that "the movement material was created by students and then arranged by Ms. Wiener," which goes to show that it's not so much what you've got but what you do with it that counts in the end.