Dark Knights

The four men of Pilobolus -- Otis Cook, Matt Kent, Gaspard Louis and Benjamin Pring -- ended the first half of the evening with 1997's "Gnomen," a dance made in memory of a friend and colleague. The four men, dressed in tight black trunks, enter a dim stage in a close body, supporting one who seems injured. The role of the wounded comrade passes among the other four throughout the dance, and there seems to be a good deal of innocent brutality throughout the piece, like little boys picking on one another in a kind of curiosity. Throughout the piece one or another of the dancers seems to become weightless as his fellows lift him with their toes or with a couple of fingers, as if corpse is becoming spirit before us. The movement is slow and thoughtful, and Paul Sullivan's music sounds like something for a movie -- lush, highly colored, quite romantic.

The evening ended with "Aeros," a 1996 piece wherein Benjamin Pring, in 1930s aviator gear, crashes in smoke in a strange land whose citizens move about with their trunks bent double, their arms wrapped about their calves and their heads looking at the world from between their ankles. One of them, however, Rebecca Anderson, flies, swooping and dipping, with, over and among her four male attendants. She and the aviator are instantly attracted. Despite her own shyness and the protectiveness of her attendants, the two get together, but he must leave (by way of a flying harness) to defend the free world or whatever. The piece is silly, extremely pretty and rather moving, all at once.

Although this Pilobolus concert never inspired the awe that other appearances have, it was still great fun. Most of the troupe is relatively new -- three have been with the company for a year or less. Perhaps we need to have them back in a year or so when they are better accustomed to one another and have mastered some of the older repertory that gave Pilobolus its well-deserved renown.

-- Harry Weber

THE MATCHMAKER
By Thornton Wilder
Kirkwood Theatre Guild

When the creators of Hello, Dolly! turned Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker into a musical, they kept most of Wilder's plot until near the end, when they simplified the wrap-up. They also, wisely, made some changes in the dialogue. Wilder's quirky humor lives in a world more whimsical than that of musical comedy.

You can savor the pleasures of Wilder's world in the central performances of the Kirkwood Theatre Guild's continued on page 77continued from page 74current production of the play. The obtuse gruffness of George Wiseheart's Horace Vandergelder is always amusing, never mean. John Inchiostro and Mark Vaughan radiate comic energy as Vandergelder's put-upon clerks. They're joyously partnered by Janet Seitz and Kelly Schnider as the young women who egg them on to delightful adventures. Susan Filtrante's Dolly Levi should be larger than life but isn't; her schemes, however, do keep the action moving. Except for the climax of the Harmonia Gardens scene, which whips by too swiftly to savor, Lori Renna directs crisply and clearly.

-- Bob Wilcox

MERGED
Mid America Dance Company

A March concert is a longstanding Mid America Dance Company tradition. In bygone days it was called Company Works and featured choreography by Madco dancers themselves, as well as that of established choreographers.

Madco continued this tradition last weekend in a dance concert named Merged, which showed off dance pieces by three current Madco dancers, a former Madco dancer who is now a prominent dance educator, and a choreographer teaching at Southwest Missouri State University. The company also reconstructed a 1987 piece by its late co-founder, Ross Winter.

The most successful new work was Madco company member Todd Weeks' 1999 "Nucleus," which utilized the entire Madco company, as well as three young intern dancers from Lindenwood University. Weeks himself, Madco artistic director Stacy West and company member Kate Benkert Meacham, clothed in flame-colored bodysuits, were the principal dancers, with the rest of the company and the interns, in electric-blue bodysuits, rushing around and about. "Nucleus" is pure dance and pure fun -- vigorous, fast and consistently upward, made to please the eye and the spirits.

The Winter piece, "Hidden Walls of Time," is much more pure dance than the program note might lead one to believe. It opens with the lights coming up slowly to reveal three mounds, which resolve themselves into three long-skirted dancers, two men and a woman. Long skirts, of course, are made for swirling, which the three dancers do, and so do the rest of the company, in shorter skirts. The wheeling and revolving, seldom all going the same way (or at all) at the same time, reminded me of the wheels and springs of an old-fashioned watch. The works didn't seem to be coordinated, but the face of the watch moved steadily around. The whirling and spinning, however, gradually comes to a stop, and the dancers become much more angular, much more static, once again evoking the watch image. This time, however, the watch is running down, changing back into inanimate metal from the elegant movement it had before.

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