Since joining the Dance Complex as executive director nearly two years ago, Peter DiMuro has been committed to widening the niche-bound notion of dance.
Nearer, Closer… & Other Acts of Intimacy, Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion at the Dance Complex, Cambridge, MA, through March 8.
By Marcia B. Siegel
Since joining the Dance Complex as executive director nearly two years ago, Peter DiMuro has been putting several ideas into practice for engaging the dance center and its constituents with a bigger world. Having worked for a decade with dancer-activist extraordinaire Liz Lerman, DiMuro is committed to widening the niche-bound notion of dance. He sees the students and performing dancers who use the Central Square space as surrounded by and often intersecting with populations of the aging, the disabled, gay folk, artists, and people on the street. DiMuro put this ideal of multiple communities into action with his performances this weekend.
Friday evening began with a reception for a small group of supporters to look at the in-progress renovation of the ground floor at the former Odd Fellows Hall. The new space will add a Studio 7 to the Complex’s theater and the six other studios spaces that offer everything from stretch classes to tango lessons. The long, narrow space will have a dance floor, mirrors, and window walls that look out on Massachusetts Avenue — allowing pedestrians to look in on whatever activities are going on inside.
After the reception, the audience gathered in the lobby for Haiku I – V, a people-piece for DiMuro’s eight dancers and ten members of “Le Grand Continental,” a group formed by the Celebrity Series last summer. I couldn’t see much of this over the heads of the crowd, but I could make out disembodied white Dynel wigs and a few arms and legs — one arm swathed in a purple satiny glove. And, on the landing of the grand staircase that forms the Complex entryway, three or four people saluted one another in a gracious mini-quadrille. All the dances that followed in the theater showed how performance can fold together divergent elements and sensibilities.
Nearer, Closer…, a work in progress, was accompanied by Nate Tucker, playing synthetic sounds on a keyboard and a laptop. Beginning with a solo for Hai Dang Nguyen, the dance seemed at first to be improvised around each of the eight dancers’ individual styles — there were young and older ones, with different training and experience. For much of the work, they sat in chairs in two facing lines, and the chairs remained in the space when they began to move around. When all of the dancers were in action at the same time, the space looked crowded and random, a bit like the Haiku environment.
But I began to see moments of choreographed accord among them. Small duets emerged, and instants of stillness and spurts of energy seized the group. Most of the movement seemed inner-focused and close to the body, as if the dancers had learned it in a smaller space. Finally they made a line of chairs facing the audience and began individual phrases of small gestures around the face, with Nguyen dancing in the background.
This work made me think about the difference between a crowd and a community. DiMuro and the dancers will continue to work on it, through a Retreat and Residency grant from the Boston Dance Alliance. No date was given for a finished performance, but I look forward to it.
Male Monuments, a talking dance, was a self-portrait of Peter DiMuro as dancer, artist, raconteur, and gay man. Illustrating his monologue with gestures and a few dance moves, he talks about how his policeman father created a museum of World War II trophies in the basement to celebrate a lifetime of macho memories and deeds. Seemingly without rancor, DiMuro notes his family’s disappointment when he preferred to play with his Lincoln Logs (he shows a cute little model he might have built) and how bewildered they were when he wanted to paint his creations pink.
Four male volunteers sit in a row upstage, serving as his occasional helpers and, when prompted, re-create the famous image of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima in 1945. He skims over his high school and college years, and the gay pride march on Washington in 1984. The story ends as DiMuro meets his father again on the Mall in D.C. While he visits the Smithsonian, his dad sits outside, contemplating history. The main story is a tribute to his father, who seems, in DiMuro’s telling, as much of a relic as the heroic objects he preserved. Maybe even his life-style has become obsolete.
Another apparent mismatch/accommodation was represented in Dos Hombres (2014), a remarkable duet for flamenco dancer Nino de los Reyes and actor Elver Ariza-Silva. Much of their dialogue was in Spanish, but though I and much of the audience didn’t share that language, the tensions and affection between the two men were evident. You wouldn’t think a strong, virtuoso performer and a survivor of polio with severe disabilities could dance together, but, facilitated by Peter DiMuro, de los Reyes and Ariza-Silva did.
Much of the piece consisted of arguments and observations on each other’s presentation, with brief punctuations of dancing by de los Reyes. At moments they danced side by side, Ariza-Silva marking his partner’s postures. It was moving to see both of them bravely being what they were. Onstage violinist Tania Mesa turned the duo into a trio with her Spanish-Sephardic sounding music for the dancing riffs.
Nino De los Reyes is the son of Boston dancers Clara Ramona (now based in Hong Kong) and Ramón de los Reyes. Archival footage of Ramón and an unidentified female partner were shown during the dance. Lindsay Caddle LaPointe put together the video. The patriarch was in the audience Friday night, and was warmly acknowledged by DiMuro and the audience.
Internationally known writer, lecturer, and teacher Marcia B. Siegel covered dance for 16 years at the Boston Phoenix. She is a Contributing Editor for the Hudson Review. The fourth collection of Siegel’s reviews and essays, Mirrors and Scrims–The Life and Afterlife of Ballet, won the 2010 Selma Jeanne Cohen prize from the American Society for Aesthetics. Her other books include studies of Twyla Tharp, Doris Humphrey, and American choreography. From 1983-1996 Siegel was a member of the resident faculty of the Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University