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Sunday, September 13, 2009

REVIEW: Raimund Hoghe’s “Bolero Variations” @ Newmark Theatre and Oregon Painting Society @ The Works (Friday, Sept 11)

Posted by Stephen Marc Beaudoin on Sun, Sep 13, 2009 at 8:07 PM

There was a simple, moving moment during PICA's TBA Festival this past Friday night at the Newmark Theatre. One that left the audience breathless.

It happened when PICA artistic director Cathy Edwards, in another of her graceful and understated pre-performance speeches, described the conditions under which dancemaker Raimund Hoghe's company entered the United States earlier in the month for this, their American debut.

Edwards described a process by which all six members of Hoghe's international company were admitted into the country for their much-anticipated debut — except for one, an Algerian-born performer, detained solely because of his country of origin. There was an audible gasp in the audience, and then: silence.

That Hoghe's work which followed this dramatic opening - the US premiere of his “Bolero Variations” - failed to captivate me as much as his company's story is due, in part, to the artist's own aim with the work. “Bolero Variations” offers much to like: the chance to hear legendary figure skating duo Torvill and Dean's legendary 1984 “Bolero” performance on ice (not once, but twice!), the opportunity to watch five unique and interesting movement artists do unique and interesting things with their hands and bodies. Maria Callas makes an aural cameo.

Minimalism could be one way to describe the effect, although the cacaphonous movements too rarely offered any of the visceral thrill of the best minimalist art (composer Steve Reich or artist Sol LeWitt, to name two).

But for me, it didn't add up. Hoghe, a former dramaturge for Pina Bausch, is a short, squat man with an oddly compelling stage presence. His three other male and one female corps of dancers move, at a glacial pace, with great intention. As I was expected to review part or all of “The Works” that evening, I had to sneak out at the intermission.

In retrospect, I wish I had not. I only went to “The Works” at Washington High School twice this year, but Friday night's showing by the Oregon Painting Society represented, to my eyes and ears, the more self-aggrandizing, wince-inducing side of TBA that occasionally peeks through all that really good, interesting work.

I recall American Apparel outfitted dancer girls gyrating to guitar and synth wailings, and a circle formation during which a shovel was pounded on the Washington High stage while the involved artists intoned bizarre chants. I made great friends that night with “The Works” bartenders.

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