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Abou Lagaraa Review

Allegoria Stanza falls short

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 11:05pm

Abou Lagaraa presented his France based dance company in Allegoria Stanza this evening at the Kennedy Center as part of the Arts Arabesques Festival. Lagraa uses hip-hop, and contemporary movement in this evening length production and attempts to show a crossing of boundaries through these styles.

The dancers are wonderfully versatile, showcasing the staccato, signature “pop” of hip-hop, the robot-like breaking of the joints, and extensive floor work demonstrating a wonderful control and balance of the body. They switch into the release based modern work just as easily and use it as a counterpoint that blends in all the breaks of hip-hop. All of them are powerful on stage and eat up space in great big strides–so much so that often they end up having to hold back because of the smaller size of the Terrace Theater. Costumed in burnt orange pants and tops, they look like tawny alley cats and move with similar easy grace.

There are powerful solos for several dancers, which I suspect were developed mostly using the dancers’ contribution. One man’s solo looks surprisingly like it was created using a strobe light, a woman comes through who is all hips and lose limbed joints, there are a couple of duets for the men where they try to outdo each other with their moves, and several formations come together and break apart randomly. Lagraa tries to force meaning with a few random gestures, but they don’t quite work to hold the piece together. The work ends up with an amateur feel where every dancer gets to show off their tricks instead of having something to say.

A rectangle and two long vertical columns of fabric serve as projection screens for a completely superfluous video of various images of waves, water, and rain. And just in case the image of the thunderstorm wasn’t enough of a hint, there is an accompanying soundtrack of thunderclaps. Whatever happened to choreographers using movement to convey their intentions? This current trend of an artificial attempt at multi-disciplinary works is becoming tiring. The hip-hop movement seems forlorn without its accompanying lyrics and ends up looking watered down without the context of its counter-culture grounding. Thankfully the dancers are good movers and manage to hold your attention through the evening despite the unwieldy choreography.

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