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Storks, Tutus, and Children

Anna Myer and Dancers Present Two World Premieres

By Fred Choi

Staff Writer

Anna Myer and Dancers

Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 8 p.m.

Tsai Performance Center

T he Boston-based troupe Anna Myer and Dancers presented two world premieres and three other works this past weekend at the Tsai Performance Center. Having founded her company a little more than a decade ago, Anna Myer provided a program that gave a compelling review of her idiosyncratic yet personable work thus far and generated anticipation for future works.

The program opened with “Unlocking,” a work commissioned by the FleetBoston Celebrity Series, which featured a generally bright, Torkian score by Boston composer Dana Bryton. On the dimly lit stage a solo dancer in white immediately presents Myer’s instantly recognizable vocabulary, comprising gestures which oftentimes appear to be abstracted representations of natural movements.

From Myer’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of eye-catching, surprisingly eloquent gestures, this piece included an upraised arm with the hand curved to suggest a beak, accompanied by a stiff one-legged “stork” pose, suggesting awkwardness and tension; an arm with a half-closed hand folded and placed on the chest, close to the nearest shoulder, as if holding and stroking a wounded animal; and a torso bent back with arms outstretched, unfolding towards the sky as if in ecstacy.

Myer’s language takes some getting used to, but once it is more familiar her works resonate with depth, intelligence, and heartfelt emotion. It becomes apparent only as the first piece unfolds that the colors of the costumes are significant. The opening section features a dancer in white and one in black; then the stage becomes populated with several dancers in gold and translucent white, and finally one in red, who spends the majority of her first moments on stage simply watching the others.

The dancer in black repeatedly jumps on the backs of others in a gesture that could be interpreted as playful but in this context feels curiously sinister. Although the work, one of Myer’s most concretely narrative, was intended to be a statement on birth, death, and loss, it also allows for other convincing interpretations, such as an exploration of the ideas of purity, evil, and passion.

“The Presence of that Absence,” featuring dancers Jennifer Polyocan and Liz Santaro, the other premiere of the program, certainly evoked an atmosphere, but ended before it could evoke an emotion. Similarly, “Wine and Roses” had sections which were certainly suggestive, including a trio featuring dancers of distinctly different sizes who made poses full of braggadocio and a quintet featuring two mixed couples and one female who seemed intentionally conspicuous in her lack of a partner. However, the impetus of the overall piece seemed difficult to fathom.

The duet from “Quintet to Brahms,” one of Myer’s most praised pieces (and deservedly so),received a wonderfully adept performance by Bess Rouse and Rick Vigo: Rouse, in a stiff white tutu, and Vigo, in red, danced with the perfect combination of fluidity and sculpted shapes, the stylistic elements which are at the core of Myer’s choreography. The performance evoked all the emotion of classical ballet, if not more, but in a beautifully singular language.

The final piece of the program, “BlueBird No. 173,” unfortunately crossed the dangerous line between honest emotion and oversentimentality. Using children in any art form immediately puts anyone in the audience other than doting parents on their guard, and at first Myer’s choreography was creatively successful.

The children made their appearance lining up in a row at the back of the stage while three couples, the women in brightly colored dresses and the men in casual shirts and pants, danced in front of them. Soon afterwards, each child seated herself in front of one of the seated adults, and then each adult scooted forward and placed his or her head on the child’s head. The naturally discomforting reaction to the ambiguous gesture, which suggested menacing closeness as much as comfort, was quickly dispelled as the rest of the work progressed.

Gestures like the one in which a child runs to an adult who lifts and swings the child up in her or his arms did little to move the piece beyond the nostalgia and sentimentality of the music that accompanied it, which included the early ’60s pop song “Blue Velvet” and country and western songs. The piece evoked the classic America of such works as Oklahoma and those by Steinbeck, but lacked the counterbalancing darkness of those works and the successful mix of emotion and artistry found in Myer’s other works on the program.

For more information on upcoming performances, visit the company’s Web site at <>.