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Dance/Performance Review:

Kinetic Dance Theater’s "Quasar" at Links Hall

BY LUCIA MAURO

Joanna and Ryan Greer, co-founders of Kinetic Dance Theater, take a holistic approach to performance. Their efforts over the past two years to develop evening-length pieces uniting movement, text, projections and original monologues certainly should be applauded. The husband-and-wife team’s latest performance odyssey, "Quasar" – running through June 23 at Links Hall – extends to the solar system as the artists present "an expressionist response to the mysteries of the cosmos."

Scientific and artistic expression partner each other in this astutely structured but overall haphazard work, which gets stifled by its desire to incorporate too many disparate elements. Although it fosters a theme of intergalactic connection, the show never effectively unites its academic theories and buoyant theatrics.

"Quasar" is divided into five parts, each of which includes a choreographed piece in a jazzy musical-theater style; slides from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope; the dancers’ personal reflections on their relationship to space; and recorded interviews with a physicist, spiritualist and precocious 10-year-old girl. So the production has the odd feel of being both a science lecture and a Peter Gennaro-style variety show.

It’s admirable for choreographers to enhance movement with all-encompassing theories and human stories. But the intellectual babbling and Planetarium-esque backdrop get in the way of the Greer’s compositionally inventive choreography rooted in Bob Fosse, movie musicals and vaudeville. While the choreographers can extend their movement vocabulary to an even more experimental plane, they demonstrate a keen talent for sending bodies aesthetically and electrically through space.

Although Parts One and Three tend to meander in a haze of self-aware reverence for the material, the rest of the program offers some profound and genuinely entertaining moments. Part Two, titled "Life Is a Never-Ending Galaxy," includes a touching monologue by Heather S. Hulsen about how the Challenger disaster was a defining episode for her generation and served as her first encounter with the notion of human mortality. Angela Frederick delivers an intriguing reflection on time and fate in relation to a long-distance relationship.

In this same section, Joanna and Ryan Greer perform a spirited and beautifully executed duet to Van Morrison’s "Moondance." Audiences are also treated to the bubbly, perceptive recorded comments of 10-year-old Sara Coyote Pope, who is in awe of the universe, stating "It’s so big, we’re so small!"; and a futuristic hat-and-cane ensemble number to Herbie Hancock’s "Rockit," in which the robotic dancers mimic a sense of re-wind and sonic unraveling.

Part Five: "Something Out There You Can’t Explain" features revelatory monologues from Ryan – about his discovery that the ultimate religious experience is to participate in the creative flow – and Joanna’s humorous observations of the advantages of her "alien" status. She was born in Scotland, which always attracts a lot of attention, even though she’s lived in American her whole life.

Among the five-member ensemble – including Frederick, Hulsen, Joanna Greer and Amanda Kimble – Ryan Greer is the most polished and dynamic, with a lovely line and light, graceful carriage.

"Quasar" could be a more mentally and physically "kinetic" piece if Kinetic Dance Theater cut most of the academic ramblings and focused instead on the performers’ honest personal reflections and vigorous dancing.

Kinetic Dance Theater’s "Quasar" runs through June 23 at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield. Tickets: $10. Call 773-293-2499.

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