Dutch choreographer Nicole Beutler is honoring one of her idols, Lucinda Childs, in a hypnotic evening of minimalist dance. This reverent program, seen Thursday night at the Experimental Media Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is beautiful for its simplicity and its sincerity. Five dancers, performing Beutler adaptations of Childs’ works, demonstrates how the sparest of movements has the power to draw in the eye and tickle the imagination.
As Childs’ works are rarely staged, “Dialogue with Lucinda,” which is coupled with Beutler’s radical and raging “Songs,” is worthwhile. It’s a journey back to the 1970s when minimalism was riding a high. And this less is more packaging wrought some alluring work indeed.
Audiences entered Beutler/Childs’ stripped down universe while “Radial Courses” was already in progress. A cast of four dancers, in sneakers and street clothes, strode in perfect unison. As the standing audience rimmed the stage, (we were asked not to sit just yet), the dancers walked and walked and walked in a circle, in silence. The swish of their feet against the floor was the only noise, but it created a mesmerizing and comforting rhythm as the dancers subtly shifted their positions in the pack.
Then came the surprises. Two of the four broke away to skip and then leap lowly. They sped up the tempo while the other two kept the steady pace of the walk. As we began to accept the change, then came another. They reversed course. While all of it sounds terribly mundane, it was not. These dancers commanded complete attention for its 20-minute duration.
There was one curious bit, however. In the shadows, standing with the audience was dancer Marjolein Vogels who occasionally put on a hideous mask. Hairy and impish looking, it was difficult to identify what kind of creature the mask depicted. It hardly mattered. It was just an oddity that didn’t add or detract from this purposeful walk.
The night proceeded with “Interior Drama” with all five dancers, this time led by Vogels, an especially lovely dancer who is sleek and tall. She took centerstage, announced that this was part one, and she began to bourree to the side. Crossing her feet to the back and then the front, she moved upstage and down in a line, never straying from her center course.
The piece built, with the same hypnotic intensity as “Radial Courses,” with the addition of other dancers — first the two men, Aimar Perez Gali and Javier Vaquero Ollero, and then the two women, Cristiana Ruggieri and Hillary Blake Firestone. The five formed a V with Vogels at its point. And as they moved back and forth, in this same criss-crossing sidesteps, they executed each brush with a devotion that verged on fanatical for its precision and placement.
Nicole Beutler will repeat “Dialogue with Lucinda” and “Songs” at 7 and 9 tonight, respectively, in Studio 2 at EMPAC. More information is available at 276-3921 or empac.rpi.edu.