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Spectrum Dance Theater Presents RAMBUNCTIOUS ITERATION #3- THE IMMIGRANTS

By: Amy Munice
February 2, 2019

Sprayed across the floor in studied randomness, thirteen dancers of Spectrum Dance Theater are on their backs, bodies seemingly quaking as if being electrocuted.   Each body pointing in a different direction, they commonly have hands shaking somewhat violently.

Those who have read the program will likely see this finale moment in this last of five dances perhaps as being a more literal homage to the titular August 1, 1966 mass shooting at UT Austin when a sharpshooter famously sidled up a telephone pole to better spy his targets. Russian-born composer Yevgeniy Sharlat had been commissioned to write this piece, which Spectrum founder and driving force Donald Byrd then choreographed.

While Byrd and Sharlat may have created this final shot, in all senses, panorama to depict the carnage of a mass shooting, it struck this writer as also being an apt gesture to capture the entire RAMBUNCTIOUS ITERATION #3 offering. Here are bodies being electrified by the scores—taken over by the breadth and depth of musical modernism.   One can picture Byrd lying in bed with headset on allowing himself to be transported by the music to the elsewhere that he then tries to show us in his choreographic responses.

More than many, if not most, this musicology-rich dance program says, “Hey, it’s all about the music, you know..”   You sense it the minute you dive into the program, which is richer in composer biographies than is the dance program norm, and actually even more comprehensive than those you might read in a CSO MusicNOW program.

In this #3 iteration, each of the musical works are composed by immigrants whose elsewhere origins flavor their score including: Cuban-born Tania León’s A la Par; Mexican-born Max Lifchitz’ Five Impromptus; Chinese-born Tan Dun’s Eight Memories in Watercolor; Iranian-born Giti Razaz’ Shadow Lines; and the aforementioned finale by Sharlat. Rambunctious 3 takes us deep into the landscape of modern American music to hear how it sounds with different accents.

Like this writer, you too may be eye-blinking amazed that each of these pieces, other than the finale, were choreographed by Byrd in only a fortnight. Always showcasing the range of the troupe’s talented dancers, Byrd’s choreography is ever engaging in the way it seamlessly moves us from an almost literal frame to abstractions of abstraction. Some moves start in the landscape of affect– a dance energy vortex amplifying with movement almost screeching violin intensity or simple fluttering hands to the beat of what sounds like a xylophone flourish. Others–and especially the two opening pieces, While He Was Away and Byrd’s spin-off homage to Balanchine Paraphrase—are more cerebral playing with geometry. This writer imagines that if Byrd’s life had moved in another direction he would have been a really standout blindfolded 3D chess player hustling for wins in impromptu Times Square tournaments.

These two opening pieces are also juiced by Doris Black’s costume design—colorful Mondrian designs in the opener and black and white in Paraphrase.   The choreography so tightly plays off the visual impact of how, for example, three dancers in the same permutation design of blue and red come together at a musical apogee, or how two dancers are paired with their opposite black and white costume scheme it’s difficult to imagine that these dancers ever rehearsed without being garbed so.

So very likable Byrd—reluctantly pressed into service to do verbal tap dancing between each piece to afford time for costume changes—chose not to elaborate on how costumes were created when an audience member shared her WOW! at the costume design. If you catch this last performance tonight please do ask and share his answer here.

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