Monday, March 17, 2014

American Dreamer—Reverie on Working in Dance

Michael Apuzzo and Michelle Fleet in American Dreamer. Photo: Tom Caravaglia
American Dreamer could be read as a nostalgic reverie about the daily life of a dance company. Santo Loquasto's set places it in a contemporary studio, with a parted curtain, barre, rolling clothes rack, upright piano, and assorted chairs; his costumes are pale leotards and rehearsal clothes, and hats for all. A selection of Stephen Foster songs sung on a recording by Thomas Hampson provides the soundtrack and some of the wispy plot lines. 

As in many of Taylor's works, there is a timeless sense of politesse and flirtation. The ensemble filters onstage; the dancers greet one another cordially before the rehearsal/performance begins. A man tries to get a woman's attention. Or, in Sean Mahoney's case, to the tune of "Beautiful Dreamer," he tries to catch the glazed eye of three sleepwalking women who are oblivious to his antics. Through segments to "Oh Susanna," "My Wife is a Most Knowin' Woman," and "Molly! Do You Love Me," the performers not dancing sit to the side, relaxing, drinking water, changing clothes, watching the onstage action nonchalantly but with quiet focus, just as they might in a rehearsal.

Many steps repeat; Taylor's soft chassée is the most common means of locomotion. Formations evoke folk dancing. The dancers move in a circle a number of times, sometimes splitting into pairs for some social dancing, or falling into lines for a square dance. The piece seems to focus on habits, on comforts—of familiar movement, of daily behavior, of the circumstances under which a dance is made. By simply donning a costume—symbolized by various straw hats—you can completely change your character. It's the beauty of art, the endless options available from which to pick and choose. It is not Taylor's most inventive or captivating work, but American Dreamer feels like an appreciative glimpse into the pleasures of a life path that isn't always poems and platitudes, but which does offer its share.

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