Is It Dance?

REVIEW by Willard Manus

The question was asked--and answered--by Diana Sherwood, curator of the evening of "found and assembled" dance pieces seen recently at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. Sherwood, a local dancer and teacher, was a member of the Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble from 2003-2006 and has received a Pew Charitable Trust grant for her work in new media.

Sherwood invited submissions from a wide range of media people interested in investigating the question whether all movement is, in effect, dance. Such artists as Sara Wookey, Rachel Lopez, Jean Copeland and Nina Kaufman responded with short works that imaginatively depicted the many ways that not just choreographed but spontaneous activities evince a beauty and symmetry akin to dance.

In one piece, for example, David Weiss (former principal oboist of LA Philharmonic), sat and played three selections on the musical saw. There was poetry in the way his hands and bow moved while coaxing eerily beautiful sounds out of a commonplace Stanley Handyman blade. In another (Work & Play by Arianne Hoffman), everyday movement combined with computer images on a laptop produced some surprisingly compelling shapes and forms.

Sherwood's Dance of Her Hands presented snippets of the 1930 film "Tilly Losch in Her Dance of the Hands" side by side with Lopez's sinuous motions. The result was a highly charged exploration of the tension between film and live movement, past and present dance techniques.

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