Praise of Women
West: Celebrate Ito, Horton, Lewitztky
These women would have done Mrs. Robinson proud. Just a week after the death of the stage and film actress Anne Bancroft—she of the bored, bruised beauty, whose estimable dramatic presence was occasionally undermined by her alluring, tent-shaped mouth and heavy-lidded peepers (not to mention those advertisements of “The Graduate” showing only her nylon-encased gam framing a tadpole Dustin Hoffman)—the Woman was celebrated for her body, her mind, and the seductive, often dangerous cocktail of the two.
There were pleasures aplenty in watching Miyako Nitadori, Kristina Berger and Regina Larkin carry the mantle of the divine Mrs. R Saturday night at the Lincoln Theatre. All three painted bold stripes in the spectrum of women’s lives, among them the process of getting older and turning from sexual predator to wary porcupine to pulchritudinous swan on a dime. Dancing the works of Dana Tai Soon Burgess, Lester Horton and Bella Lewitzky, it was difficult not to be, well, seduced.
Burgess’s intricate “Dariush” gets more interesting each time it is performed. Burgess packed abrupt twists, handstands and jagged arm gesticulations into his choreography. The leg is contorted into stiff arches and rolling bends. The foot is pulled back and the hands pressed together in prayer position. Nitadori is a dancer of disarming grace and energy. Her circular vaults across the stage brought to mind the earthy, voracious body language practiced by Garth Fagan’s dance company. “Dariush” proved itself once again to be an unqualified hit, voluptuous but not voracious, brassy but not brazen. Nitadori is an ideal muse for Burgess, whose attention to detail is evolving from impressively prodigious to heart-racingly inspiring. Surveying the landscape of modern dance in Washington, he is—far and away—the frontier.
“Sarong Paramaribo” is Lester Horton’s Balinese-inspired piece featuring delicate intonations from the fingers and toes. Integrated into the steps is a self-conscious grapple with the sarong of the title. Kitted out with a tall gold headdress, Berger was a charming interpreter, whipping the long, meticulously embroidered fabric around her ankle and back between her legs. She faced the audience and spread her toes like a fan. Her arms spread wide and she rolled her middle and ring fingers in smooth, slow flutters. She wriggled her neck, letting the crown twitter atop her hair. The final image, of the dancer bowing and making frozen accordion arm spans was particularly cheery.
The most affecting segment of the evening came courtesy of the incandescent Regina Larkin, dancing Joyce Tristler’s “Journey.” Portraying a Woman of a Certain Age, Larkin found herself searching the stage for signs of light. Clad in a translucent white wrap, she explored the inky black terrain using different means of modus operandi. She geometrically pressed on, pushing with her palms outward, trying to force her way out of the dark. She sliced at the air sharply, with her fingertips pointed, attempting to squeeze through it. She seemed weary and plaintive, with every leg extension seeming like the last. Arming her journey with a lifetime of experience, she discovered that reverting to her calmest, most fluid movements (as if she were back in the womb once more) was the key to illumination. She innocently and hopefully swam, with gentle dedication, across the space toward the square of light that opened against the wall. Was she escaping from or entering into the world? The mystery made “Journey” feel like an extended walk into existentialism.
Also performed was a work by Bella Lewitzky that seemed to consciously avoid edification and instruction in favor of showy histrionics. A red unitard was utilized to maximum effect. ‘Nuf said. But the most confounding dance work of the night was “Light Armor,” which was comprised of a Plexiglas cube, a lot of spinning, sliding and lifting, and a perplexing yet conventional take on that oft-traversed road called relationships.
"Facing West" provided a chance to see a trio of women at their individual peaks. And it also gave the opportunity to witness what was so interesting to observe in Mike Nichols’s 1967 masterpiece. It was like a band of Benjamins and Elaines in desperate search of a Mrs. Robinson to lead them out of their youthful disillusionment and into sexual and intellectual maturity.