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September 27, 1993 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-09-27

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 27, 1993

'Dances' full
of Fall surprises
If you weren't watching closely, you might have missed the beginning
of Mauren Janson's "Raw Work #1," the opening piece in Performance
Network's annual "S'ptember Dances" concert. Although it might seem
difficult to miss an opening number
while seated in the theater, it's really
September Dances quite easy when the choreographer
Performance Network failed to give you the universal clues
September 24, 1993 of commencement.
There were no dimmed house-
lights, no stagelights, no music, no
costume and no make-up. There was Janson, an audience and the theater lit
by pre-performance floodlights. Her actual choreography (from which
nothing could distract you) was a series of jagged-edged and vibrant
phrases. Her direct gaze was unflinching and confrontational. She put the
audience in the position of the performer: lights up, eyes fixed on you. Her
movement was a clever combination of long sharp angles and quirky
animal-like gestures. It was a cross between a composition class showing
and aperformer's revolt. As apunch line, the houselights faded and a fading
spotlight caught her face, laughing.
Unfortunately, the texture of Janson's work did not thread through the
entire concert. She was followed by Barbara Djules Boothe's neurotic and
cliche "Refuge," danced by University dance major Kevin Clayborn. With
no motivating force behind the drama, it was an unwaveringly monotonous
study of angst. The movement was predictable, metered and square. The
music, by Philip Glass, was moody and repetitive and the dancer, the only
point of interest, looked stilted by the small space and the uneven flow of
the choreography.
The mood flipped again with Amanda Stanger's "Middle Ground,"
performed by Stanger and University graduate student Scott A. Read. The
piece, set to uplifting Irish music by the Chieftains, was unabashedly
charming. Filled with generous, excited dancing, the duet incorporated
many of the complexities of male/female relationships and handled power
issues with a sense of whimsy and facetiousness. More impressive than any
message, however, was their actualized happiness, not being professed or
acted out.
Stanger's stage persona is refreshingly open and honest. She dances
with the joy of a child, engaging the audience in the pure pleasure of her
movement. She brings back an antique concept that much of modern dance
has all but abandoned: ecstasy in movement.
Those who attended the Saturday night performance and missed Jessica
Fogel's "Kaddish" were compensated by an "impromptu" performance by
Charmie Gholson and Carmen Moyer. The improv-like sketch was a good
palate-cleanser before Stanger's more dramatic solo, "Lisa."
Set to the Cat Steven's song "Lisa," the piece was pulling without being
sentimental. With a dedication that indicated the death of a young woman,
the audience was set up for tragedy. Instead of gaping wounds or bloody
confessional choreography, what they got was the subtle strength of Stanger
dealing with loss. Movement ranged from introverted flinching vulnerabil-
ity to defiant, angry confrontation. She was fluid and easy while weaving
through the narrative a plethora of mixed emotions and explosive energy.
The concert closed with Scott Read's "One View," a quartet that
included himself; Stanger, Elisa LaBelle and Beverly Dosh-Robinson. It
reminded one of the mixed metaphors of a Gregory Corso poem, including
an intense ballroom scene, random Dali-esque images and a montage of
flowers, baskets and chairs. It had the surreal feeling of late-night T.V.

Kenneth Branagh's witty and comical style come through once more in a film adaptation of Shakespeare's "Much Ado about Nothing."
'Much Ado is far from Nothing

As with his adaptation of "Henry
V," actor/filmmaker Kenneth
Branagh's, "Much Ado About Noth-
ing" presents a Shakespeare classic
that dispels with the classic
Shakespearereattion; namely extreme
boredom and confusion. His film is
Much Ado About
Written and Directed by Kenneth
Branagh; with Kenneth Branagh,
Emma Thompson and Denzel
anything but boring, and is as clear
and comprehensible as the costumes
are vivid, the countryside lush and the
performances luminescent. In short,
he's recreated Shakespeare for the
modern viewer, giving us a romantic
comedy with the Bard in the bargain.
Near Florence, Italy, as the day
draws to a close, what has been a

peaceful summer afternoon now turns
into a state of pandemonium as Don
Pedro, Prince of Arragon (Denzel
Washington), and his victorious army
return from war. With him is his aloof
half-brother, Don John (Keanu
Reeves), the cryptically amusing
Benedick (Kenneth Branagh), and the
love struck Claudio (Robert Sean
Leonard). The object of his affections
is young Hero (Kate Beckinsale), who
is the cousin of the fiery-tongued
Beatrice (Emma Thompson), and also
the daughter of the town's proprietor,
who invites the returning heroes in
and with them all the romantic possi-
bilities lurking in the air.
What follows is an often rambunc-
tious game of cat and mouse,
Shakespeare's style, filled with the
usual array of amusing diversions,
misunderstandings, mishaps and sub-
plots, including one involving the
lowly Dogberry (Michael Keaton); a
would-be troublemaker whose utterly
nonsensical babble ends up being the
solution to many miscommunications.

Yet, in a cast with such fine actors,
the presence of Michael Keaton is at
best annoying and more often infuri-
ating. His Dogberry resembles a
slightly less demented 16th century
Beetlejuice on speed. However, he's
not the worst. That would be Keanu
Poor boy. He's never quite man-
aged to live up to that "River's Edge,"
performance, where he played, shock-
ingly enough, a stoner dude. Yet, he
manages to provide the film with some
of its most (unintentionally) funny
scenes, particularly when he attempts
to let us know that he's REALLY
This one bad choice aside, the film
as a whole consists of one of the
finest, most diverse ensembles brought
together in years. It's blessed by both
a strong supporting cast, led by
Beckinsale and Leonard, as the
troubled lovers, and by the more
prominent performances of Washing-
ton, Thompson and Branagh, whose
Benedick is as gleefully wicked as is

Thompson's Beatrice. She's both sar-
castic and endearing, obstinate and
vulnerable, and a further testament to
Thompson's obvious talent.
Visually, the film is stunning. From
the operatic, opening scene, to the
boisterous celebration at the end, it
flows almost like a dance.
Yet Branagh may have spoiled us
in creating a brand of Shakespeare so
modern, vibrant, and enjoyable, that
the thought of viewing another pre-
tentious, overdone rendering of it
seems almost unbearable. Hopefully,
other directors will take Branagh's
example to heart. Who knows, maybe
the majority of people could even
begin to think again of Shakespeare as
relevant and exciting and the bulk of
modern culture as unworthy and dull.
It's a long shot, but at the least it might
mean a whole slew of interesting,
significant films. Now wouldn't that
be a nice change of pace?
showing at The Michigan Theater
and The State Theater.





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