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Washington Post Review 11-8-10

Review: Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company at Clarice Smith Center

By Pamela Squires
Monday, November 8, 2010

Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company has been returning to masterworks by the late Anna Sokolow. Its performance of her 1955 “Rooms” Thursday at the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts showed that rehearsing dance masterworks makes for better dancers and improves the level of the troupe as a whole.

Dakshina has been getting better dancers, such as Melissa Greco Liu and Lindsey Hedrick. Whether the troupe has recruited those with the skill to perform masterworks, or whether the masterworks have attracted better dancers, the outcome has proved beneficial for both the company and the audience. The performance also served as a reminder that works of quality never go out of date.

Sokolow Dance Foundation founding director Lorry May worked with Dakshina to reconstruct “Rooms” and the Holocaust-themed “Dreams” (1961), and two works in which May was the original principal. These are the 1995 love duet “September Sonnet” and the 1997 “Frida,” an emotional portrait of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. (“Rooms” and “Dreams” were performed on different nights of Dakshina’s two-night run.)

Sokolow’s take on Kahlo is dour. Kahlo (danced by Liu) is fascinated with her own image, overshadowed by her husband (Mexican painter Diego Rivera) and imprisoned by her love for him. At one point, Rivera (Daniel Phoenix Singh) turns in place with his arms outspread, blocking Kahlo as she darts here and there to escape.

The lovers in “September Sonnet” are equals who join forces. No swooning here. These people are committed to a partnership. Together, they are twice as powerful, a sentiment effectively conveyed in a series of conjoined port de bras.

“Rooms” (1955) intensifies big-city isolation by developing a host of characters, none of whom ever interact. No empty gestures here. Intensity imbues even the silence.

Squires is a freelance writer.