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Artists break boundaries with experimental theater

An Evening of Dance and Shakespeare
Featuring music and theater arts dance
classes and the Shakespeare Ensemble.
Kresge Little Theater.
Dec. 3 and 4.

By Scott Deskin
Associate Arts Editor

In an effort to diversify and/or push the limits of theatrical expression, various dance classes joined the Shakespeare Ensemble for a relatively loose, free-flowing evening of performances. The general format of the show alternated a dance number with a selected scene from one of Shakespeare's plays. Although at times the concept of this presentation failed to cohere, the variety definitely was enough to hold one's interest.

The evening began with a "Pre-Show Show," with members of Choreography and Improvisation (21M780) performing a series of whirls, prances, and assorted sprints across the stage to the unconfined melodies and rhythms of pianist and bassist John Funkhouser. This trend of experimentation in sound and movement continued in the self-explanatory dances "Order and Chaos" and "Improvisation."

Perhaps the most disturbing act of the show came relatively early, with a few women from 21M780 performing "Sedoyehzahn/ Womanvoice." It was a stark but well-choreographed performance which seemed to convey the fear of feminine expression against a hostile world.

The dancers' expressions were joyless and disturbing: Their movements were mechanical and suggested an outside force inhibiting their expressions and covering their mouths. The overall effect of this sequence, along with the disquieting music, left the audience transfixed.

Other dance groups employed a much different approach. More traditional dance numbers, combined with more upbeat musical selections played by the Kronos Quartet, had a more polished feel. "Pasture" and "Celebration" (the latter a solo dance by Brooke Shipley G) restored the order and positive feeling that were more diffuse in Choreography and Improvisation's dances.

Also, tap dancing was well-represented by a quintet of dancers in "Boogie Woogie Stomp" and "Patchwork Rhythm." Although they had an over-choreographed feel, both tap numbers elicited the appreciation of the audience and were quite enjoyable.

What tied the whole evening together, however, were sharp performances by members of the Shakespeare Ensemble. The highlights of the brief sketches were segments from Much Ado About Nothing: the witty but casual rapport between Anne Dudfield '95 as Beatrice and Albert Fischer '94 as Benedick was highly entertaining. And if the overt proclamations of love seemed a little forced in the reading from Troilus and Cressida, the humor of vengeance found in the characters of The Merry Wives of Windsor was especially gratifying. Although the performances en masse were not without their flaws, the sincerity of each performance more than made up for any shortcomings.

This experiment in theater and dance was a novel one, and the verve that each performer invested in the venture paid off. Anyone who is turned off by this concept should think twice before committing to a "safe" entertainment alternative. Hopefully, there will be similar enterprises in campus arts performances in the near future, a sure sign that the arts at MIT is a living entity that is not afraid to take risks.