Gremlins had gotten into Meriam Rosen's program -- both the printed one and that of the dance/theater works onstage last night at the Publick Playhouse. The printed typos were trivial, but Rosen was her own worst gremlin on this occasion. She's a teacher of long standing at the University of Maryland's College Park campus, a director of experience (having founded and guided for several years now the Improvisations Unlimited company) and a choreographer of some dances of distinction. This bill of recent pieces, though, was uninterestingly perverse.
After the misprints had been corrected with much character and considerable wit by a voice over the PA system, the performance began with a work requiring considerable technique that Rosen cast with five men, four of whom didn't have it (Darryl S. Thomas was the exception). And while good costuming can transform the scrawny and the beefy, the men were topless when they oughtn't to have been, and the trousers they wore ("constructed" by Beth Besom) were the harem-reject sort.
The choreographer calls this dance "Drifting," which was apt for the performers' appearance but not for Franz Schubert's music (the second movement of Quartet No. 13 in A minor), which is mellow, at ease, perhaps even gemuetlich. Rosen was probably trying to relate to these moods in a contemporary way. There was lifting and support work among the men that had potential because it wasn't quite the standard sort. At certain times these drifters seemed not human but like dolphins, sustaining each other on their backs. In other passages they were like bums, hoisting a buddy as if he were a knotted bundle. Some parts, especially at the beginning, had the effect of being too busy in the arms while others seemed under-choreographed. Dancers who could combine lightness, strength and subtle phrasing might improve these moments and the look of the entire piece.
"Fierce Attachments" and "Schizophrenic Girl" were performed by women, some of whom seemed to have technique to spare, yet Rosen didn't require them to use it. In "Fierce," they were dressed by Terri Hume Prell in what were more than costumes -- fire-red tops over drab clothing, with the tops becoming the objects of their emotional attachments. The idea of shedding that flamboyant bit of covering and relating to it as if it were alive and free was well stated, and then explored at too great a length without sufficient development. "Girl" is a duet Rosen choreographed with its performers, Cynthia Thompson and Kate Trammell, to the Annette Wasilik song. The dancing in it is loose and fragmented like a cute improvisation by a team of sisters, not really "schizo."
Only in "Sighting the Deer" did Rosen integrate her men and women, but this is really a unisex piece. Based on a Seamus Heaney quote about tribal people who "keep dancing 'til they sight the deer," it had this viewer seeing some very literal music visualization, imitative mime and constipated expression of feelings, all neatly segregated. They did keep dancing, though.
Also on the program, cellist Deborah Milan performed as a solo Paul Hindemith's sonata Op. 25, No. 3.