Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, April 2, 2001

Tau women tales
demand fresh steps

Reviewed by Vivien Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

TAU Dance Theater opened its 5th season last Friday and Saturday night at Leeward Community College with "Ladies Night Out," an all-female program featuring dancing and choreography by the women of the company: Rachel Berman, Betsy Fisher, Kanako Imayoshi, Esther Izuo, Ann Smith and Marie Takazawa. They were joined by guests, including Halau O Kekuhi, the female team of Taiko Center of the Pacific, Tangentz butoh company and Sing Sing Bliss.

Tau's artistic director Peter Rockford Espiritu is always able to attract acclaimed artists and collaborators. His challenge for the next five years will be to elevate the quality of the choreography done in Hawaii. This is the hardest thing for any dance company to do consistently.

The dancer's basic building blocks--the body, space, time and energy -- must be continually reexamined so that the movement vocabulary is original. New costumes, props and lighting are not enough; the movement and relationships among the dancers must go beyond what is comfortable.

Takazawa's piece, "I'll Be Seeing You," is stock Takazawa. We have seen this vocabulary before. But she is such a gorgeous dancer, so elegant and fluid, you almost forgive her for doing what she has always done. She does it so well after all. This problem recurred, albeit to a lesser extent, in Izuo and Berman's dances as well.

Fisher's choreography in "Rosalia's Shadow" is fresh. The solos tell the stories of the naughty woman, the beaten woman, the tough but broken-hearted woman. Eve Walstrum stood out for her convincing character portrayal.

Having guest choreographers helps companies avoid the trap of the familiar. Even though I cannot relate to butoh, it at least shows a different use of the dancer's body, and we are challenged to make sense of it.

A well-crafted piece by guest choreographer Beverly Blossom, "Dad's Ties," was danced with perfect comic touch by Fisher in a curly red wig and long black dress. To Robert Goulet's "Memories," she takes ties from behind her back and places them on her head one by one. Soon she is wearing a head full of ties like a wig.

She lifts her dress to reveal 20 more ties hanging from her crotch. They sway and swing lewdly while she gyrates her hips. A guitar case she picks up opens suddenly, dumping scores more ties on the floor. These she dribbles across the stage. Her interaction with the ties is punctuated by unexpected quirky gestures. At the end, she reverentially tips her hat to the strewn ties and backs offstage. It is funny, touching and never predictable.

As with Tau's all-male programs, no single, unanimous point of view emerged. What was clear, however, was that these women all had stories to tell, stories that arose from personal and cultural/traditional places. And as new associate artistic director Berman promised in program notes, we didn't even miss the "buff" men.

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