An interesting conundrum arises when a dancer moves so slowly that she is almost standing still. Is this barely perceptible movement dancing? In a concert of dances last night at the Washington Project for the Arts shared with Annie Sailer, choreographer Beth Burkhardt repeatedly addressed this issue of the barely moving mover. In contrast, Sailer's work was relentlessly and wholeheartedly centered in a continuous flow of movement in the body.
Burkhardt's metier is the gesamtkuntswerke --the total work of art--with dance movement serving as only one aspect of the whole. The centers of Burkhardt's "Laughing Sky" were its costumes and decor. Mia Halton's intriguingly whimsical paper sculptures, suspended from the ceiling, created variegated star-studded heavens. Burkhardt's mottled costume, co-designed with Halton, mirrored the sculptures. To complete the decor, the entire room was bathed in softly chiming sounds created by musicians who moved through the space.
A ritual containing within its structure the seeds of inevitable repetition, Burkhardt's "Vortex" also featured a moving decor in Guy LeValley's stunning lighting and in the singer and musician, whose participation was also choreographed. In contrast to these more serious pieces, "Bird" was a lighthearted romp performed with straight-faced wit by Suzanne Collins in Burkhardt's sportive penguin costume.
Annie Sailer's contribution, "The Silence Goes Violet," was based in the loping walk and flowing arms of the Erick Hawkins style. Sailer added her own dash of interest to this hypnotically breathy flow with her gift for manipulating groups. Five dancers formed into liquid shapes that materialized, dissolved and reformed, with a constant interplay of exits and entrances. Sailer also injected the spice of an arrow-like pointing motif in contrast with the rounded flow of the Hawkins vocabulary.