Monday, March 29, 2010

Nai-Ni Chen Dancers Shine

Civic Music brings stellar group to Burlington

for The Hawk Eye

Perhaps the brightest facet of Civic Music flashes when it brings cultural presentations down to our side of the river. The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company proved that last night at Burlington's Memorial Auditorium.

Nai-Ni Chen Dance is a blend of modern jazz and traditional Asian dance and art, and as such conjures multiple images.

Poetry in far motion is too trite. Nai-Ni Chen Dance tells stories without words.

The New York Times called them a "blossom of color, energy and motion."

Burlington has witnessed a number of Broadway musicals, replete with song and hoofing in the vein of American culture; the best of these in recent years was "Chicago" in 2008.

Compare the choreography and dancing of Nai-Ni Chen Dance with "Chicago" and this is the result: Exotic not erotic. Sensual not sexual. Precious not precision.

A hallmark of any truly creative artist is the abandonment of self before self-serving perfection takes over, and the eight Nai-Ni Chen Dance members are, without question, world-class interpretive dancers who interpret with their souls.

The troupe presented last night's largish audience with humans who danced like tigers, like serpents, like birds and horses and fishes and wraiths and even children. No one really knew exactly what was the symbolism of each dance, but everyone knew that life was the celebration.

Brilliant choreography brilliantly executed.

The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company is art in the truest sense.

Jung Hm Jo of Korea estimated the dancers practice and rehearse "five hours every day." Their fluid and fluent bodies support that idea: The four men and four women have taut, lithe and sinewy physiques, not the Schwarzeneggerian beefcake that so many American dancers attain with too much weight training.

Ethereal at times, street raw at others, the dances were all, with a few exceptions, interpretive jazz, blending African, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern and Latin moves with music that reflected all of those origins as well.

One curious moment occurred when the singers on the accompanying prerecorded soundtrack sounded like Yoko Ono had joined the band.

"Love Song of Xishuangbanna" is a stylized celebration from the Dai people of southwest China, portraying two young lovers. "Peacock Dance," a solo presentation by Min Zhou of China, is another Dai dance; Min played the role of the sacred peacock with perfection.

Chien-Hao Chang of Taiwan is in America for the first time, and he found Iowa to be as exciting as New York, where, he said, "there are a lot of dancers and choreographers."

The troupe heads for the Virgin Islands for its next show, and Burlington awaits Civic Music's season closer, cowboy music legends Riders in the Sky Thursday, April 29.

No comments: