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Jack Anderson

Laughing Stone's Pilgrimage


Photo by Jonathan Slaff

Laughing Stone Dance Theater
The Annex Theatre at La MaMa, 74A East Fourth Street, East Village
Closed Nov. 8, 2006
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, Nov. 8, 2006

It was easy to tell that seven members of the Laughing Stone Dance Theater had embarked upon a mighty quest in Sin Cha Hong's "Pilgrimage." They were impossible to miss in their long thick robes and enormous headdresses that rose like spires. There were yoke-like poles attached to their backs, and footgear resembling pedestals or stilts made everyone tower over the stage.

The costumes turned the dancers into giants, but the very bulkiness of this apparel made movement difficult for them. Their pilgrimage, set to a sound collage by Masaru Soga and Myung-woo Na, was stately and filled with poses of great pictorial beauty, including sequences that made the massed ensemble seem a great wave. But this was also a laborious journey, during which individuals occasionally tottered, toppled over, and had to struggle to pick themselves up again.

Photo by Jonathan Slaff

The attire may well have symbolized everything in life that can serve as impediments on a spiritual journey. Yet these pilgrims did shed some, but not all, of their bulky burdens, and the choreography thereby implied that the struggle for liberation may be endless.

In contrast to the prevailing laboriousness, there were occasional darting and flickering steps for two nimble masked dancers, who might have represented spirits, as well as a brief introspective solo for a mysterious white-clad figure who may have been another spirit. During the last moments of the hour-long production, the stage was bathed in golden light and the agile spirits presented the pilgrims with lilies.

Something important had obviously been accomplished. But the choreography never revealed, either through specific dramatic action or gathering emotional power, what that achievement actually was or what the stakes had been. Despite its imposing theatricality, this "Pilgrimage" remained a private mission.

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