The language of movement isn't enough for choreographer Nancy Havlik. She fills her pieces with words, poems, monologues and dialogues, spoken and recorded. Her locally based Dance Performance Group, now 14 years old, performed an evening of Havlik's choreography Sunday at Dance Place. Havlik, a lover of poetry, dance-theater and video projections, incorporated these elements into her five works, yet the choreography was the least interesting component of the program.
Although dancemakers have for years fiddled with updating and rechoreographing ballet classics such as "Giselle" and "Swan Lake," very few have been bold enough to rework more contemporary classics, aside from Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." With good reason: Martha Graham's "Appalachian Spring" doesn't need an alternative version, nor does Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" require updating. Havlik, though, has re-envisioned Vaslav Nijinsky's 1912 "Afternoon of a Faun," commissioning a new score by composer Steve Hilmy (after Claude Debussy's) that favors electronic rather than acoustic instrumentation and features a moving scenic backdrop by videographer Jeannine Mjoseth. Yet Havlik hasn't found anything insightful to add to Nijinsky's then-daring work, which broke ground as one of the earliest compact, contemporary ballets. In fact, she shamelessly steals Leon Bakst's mottled unitards and Nijinsky's Egyptian friezelike poses and flattened two-dimensional design, but her work has neither the suspense nor the wonder of the original. The initial "Faun" shocked Parisian balletgoers with its homoeroticism, its allusions to fetishism and masturbation, and its nontraditional movement motifs; Havlik's rendering is a poor substitute.
The evening also featured "You're covered with thick cloud," an inscrutable work for five dancers with dialogue excerpts from Don DeLillo's "The Body Artist," and "Amazon Dreams," a reverie on how the body flows in whirlpools of motion as Denaise Seals's video of waves and water added texture behind the dancers. Onetime Broadway hoofer Andy Torres was inadequately used in "Mouse Tails," a painfully embarrassing solo that meandered and mugged through Art Blakey's jazz riffs and a narrative about blind mice and aging. The evening's most interesting dancing came in the opening improvisation, "Kinetic Stories," inspired by a snippet of poetry from Elizabeth Bishop and accompanied on cello by Jimmie D. Dye. In it the dancers soared, dove and ran unfettered.
-- Lisa Traiger