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Washington Post Atlas Theatre 2008

A Graceful Study in Contrasts
By Barbara Allen
Monday, May 12, 2008; Page C04
Washington Post

The upside of globalization was apparent Saturday night at Dance Place in Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company’s deliciously varied program.

Opening the evening with a trio of traditional Indian dances, the company engaged the audience as it told ancient stories with intricate hand and foot gestures. The dancers stomped their bell-laden feet to the music, a homage to the Hindu elephant deity Ganesha, the destroyer of obstacles, and with delicate finger movements referenced Lord Krishna playing his flute. Stillness, in intricate poses, evoked devotional statues of deities, brought to life in striking gold-and-black costumes.

In a rare glimpse into the choreographer’s inspiration for movement, Singh staged several works by early modern dance master Anna Sokolow (1910-2000). The duet “September Sonnet” (1995) was a tribute to the cycle of human existence. Emerging in lighting evocative of the rising sun, Singh and Melissa Greco unfolded like flowers, shaking as if to release the morning dew. At times they turned like spindles dependent on each other for energy, and as the sun fell they reached outward, gesturing toward some faraway place.

In “Kaddish” (1945), Greco mournfully danced the solo movement prayer, with tense arm movements expressing unbearable pain as she intermittently beat her chest, then hugged herself in consolation.

Sokolow’s inspiration, derived from her roots in Jewish culture and animated through decisive arm movements and provocative stillness, spoke to Singh, whose choreography likewise engages in cultural translation. In his final work of the evening, “Bell Song,” the company emerged in prayer, ringing large temple bells hanging onstage. Robed in Indian-style red-trimmed white garments, the dancers whirled through space. Occasionally a dancer freed from the ensemble provided solo punctuations.

Singh’s attempt to fuse modern dance and traditional Indian forms was still a work in progress for this young choreographer. But he is on a promising and exciting path.

* Choreographer Daniel Phoenix Singh led his company in traditional Indian and modern styles at Dance Place. (Photo By Stephen Baranovics)