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Dance review: Pat Graney Company’s 'Faith' at REDCAT

April 29, 2011 | 11:25 am

01_Pat Graney Company_Faith
A still life with moving bodies. Olympians at play. Knock-kneed models in red patent leather stilettos.  These are but some of the tableaux that Pat Graney Company evokes in “Faith,” seen at REDCAT Thursday in the first of four performances. Choreographed in 1991 and inspired in part by Caravaggio, Graney’s hour-long piece is a snapshot of Everywoman -- if, that is, she were capable of holding Pietà-like poses, lurching in bound feet and rolling about a stage unabashedly naked.

The work, reconstructed in October, is seen in its Los Angeles premiere with four of its seven original dancers –- Nancy Burtenshaw, Deb Rhodes-King, Peggy Piacenza and Kathryn Stewart.  Opening with a series of lush posturings, the first section is set to a Latin Mass by mystical composer Arvo Pärt.

Clad in Frances Kenny’s stretchy velvet micro-minis, the septet moved über-slowly, occasionally in unison, creating a series of Christian images that included a neo-crucifixion.  Meg Fox’s lighting design (re-created by Ben Geffen and Amiya Brown), sumptuously highlights couples caressing and collapsing, friezes of despair and resilience.

A scene with red balls had the dancers resembling Erté sculptures one moment, cavorting and assuming muscular stances the next, recalling the glorious athletes of Leni Riefenstahl’s, “Olympia.”  And then those shoes: Rhodes-King bandaged her feet before squeezing into perilously high heels and wobbling offstage.  Soon the other similarly shod women -- a stiletto brigade -- appeared, vamping like lost Rockettes, strutting and, well, squatting -- when they weren’t dragging each other around by their ankles. 

Wiping the floor with women, by women, reflects power –- wanting it, having it, losing it. And power was evident in the work’s finale, with the dancers nude and again striking heroically sculptured poses.  Here flesh is equally amorphous and distinct, bodies sporadically piling atop bodies, a mutating landscape of desire and redemption. “Faith,” which also featured Amii LeGendre, KT Niehoff and Sara Parish (and less successful music by, among others, Amy Denio and Rachel Warwick), contains many indelible images, making it both timeless and of its time.

-- Victoria Looseleaf

Pat Graney Company’s “Faith,” REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A. Fri.- Sat., 8:30 p.m. Sun., 3 p.m.  $20 and $25.  (213) 237-2800.

Photo: Pat Graney Company's "Faith" at REDCAT with, lifted, KT Niehoff; standing, from left, Amii LeGendre, Nancy Burtenshaw and Kathryn Stewart; and, on the ground, Deb Rhodes-King. Credit: Steven Gunther