Most St. Louis dance concerts are two-evening affairs. Weaving the World through the Eyes of Women, in contrast, has already had three performances at the Mildred E. Bastian Theatre at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park and will have three more next weekend. In addition, the concert reveals the Bastian Theatre to be an excellent venue for dance. The big stage, more than just semicircular, permits expansive work up-, mid- and downstage, in addition to what seems to be an up-to-date sound and light board. Forest Park itself uses the stage a lot, but perhaps more dance performances will be presented there, now that the current production has shown what an excellent performance area it offers.
If you've wondered what the difference is between "dance" and "dance theater" is, the current concert makes the contrast crystal-clear: St. Louis' own Gash/Voigt Dance Theatre and Athens' Roes Dance Theatre make extensive use of props, particularly fabric. There can be a lot of dance, as Gash/Voigt shows, or less dance and more mime, which is the Roes style. Costumes can be simple (Gash/Voigt) or complex (Roes). Both groups, however, work toward message, sometimes rather obscure. Istanbul's Dance Factory, on the other hand, just dances. One of their three pieces, "Off You," choreographed by Kelly Parsely and Mollye Maxner and danced by Meltem Tezmen and Serap Meric to the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," is handsome and familiar modern dance -- graceful, evocative and spare. The other two, "Transform-A(c)tion" and "LC Bukey," both choreographed by Mustafa Kaplan and performed by Kaplan and Filiz Sizanli, have no music but the dancers' panting (and the panting is understandable, considering the vigor of the motion). Both pieces are to dance what minimalism is to contemporary music -- repetition with a variation here or there. "LC Bukey," which used the stage's back wall, is, by its end, genuinely compelling.
All three companies collaborated on the world premiere of "Ancestors (Part 1)," which is, according to program notes and some remarks the dancers made on Joe Pollack's radio show, a commentary on the Goddess of the Crossways, the Triple Goddess (Maiden, Mother and Crone) and the Three Fates, (who were believed to spin the thread of human life, measure it and cut it off). Of the 12 dancers, nine are a chorus swathed in white chenille somehow commenting on the actions of three more colorfully dressed dancers, manifestations of the Triple Goddess. It was all very murky. Nothing seemed to distinguish the Crone from the others, and the only man onstage performed the part of the Maiden -- how's that for alternative casting? "Ancestors (Part One)" is the early stage of a work-in-progress, but it's an excellent reason for three interesting dance companies to get together to perform and collaborate.
Weaving the World continues on Feb. 25-27.