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Jack Anderson

Paula Mann's Dancing Thoughts


Mann plays with multi-media and the distortion of time in "I Love Tomorrow." L-R: Dustin Maxwell, Robert Haarman, Jessica Briggs.

Time Track Productions
"I Love Tomorrow" created by Paula Mann and Steve Paul
Dance Theater Workshop, 219 West 19th Street, Chelsea
July 22-25, 2009 (closed)
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, July 26, 2009

Paula Mann realizes there are times when dancing and thinking are similar. Bodies jumped and twisted on stage like thoughts jumping and twisting in the mind in "I Love Tomorrow," presented by her Time Track Productions of Minneapolis. Mann, active in New York, 1980-86, moved to the Twin Cities in 1987, and they have become her choreographic headquarters. "I Love Tomorrow," created in collaboration with Steve Paul, who provided both the intricate media effects and the sound composition, joined thinking and dancing in a mysterious pas de deux.

Mixed-media effects allowed Mann and Paul to blur distinctions between events actually happening on stage and projections and video images on the back wall that could have been events remembered or only imagined, especially brief, blurry, fleeting and never quite discernible images resembling those peculiar images we may see in moments of reverie or when we're on the edge of sleep that we can never recapture because they are so absolutely transitory. Miscellaneous sounds drifted through the sonic collage, including repeated ringing telephones and poundings on doors and spoken statements that remained intriguing, but never totally comprehensible.

Just as our minds are jumbles, Mann's choreography was often intentionally a jumble. She sent people loping, cringing, coming to sudden stops, and then rebounding. There were bits of compulsive bounciness and fidgeting feet. Dancers drummed on one another's backs as if spines were xylophones. There were also tiny incidents with dramatic implications, as when people appeared to be emotionally attracted to one another, only to squabble. All such scenes remained disconnected and floated away. On several occasions, Stephen Peabody, a portly gentleman in a white suit, ambled about the stage. Mann never explained what he represented. Perhaps, though, given his paternal, or avuncular, dignity, he was some sort of personification of Father Time. Or maybe not.

Paula Mann in "I Love Tomorrow."

Still, time was very much on Mann's mind. Her events sometimes broke off. Or were repeated. Or were reversed. A video projection even announced a great reversal. And, yes, we could see sequences akin to those we'd seen before. Or something like them. But how much was actually reversed? Without being pedantic, Mann here raised certain issues of dance perception. Since dance is an evanescent art, how many details can we be expected to remember about a production at first seeing?

In this case, remembering became troublesome since "I Love Tomorrow" lacked obvious story-telling, although things happened that clearly had emotional significance. Did Mann thereby weaken her potential dramatic impact? However, if she had told a story event by event, would knowing what every event was literally about make her repetitions and reversals too obvious or gimmicky? I, for one, was happy to stare at her mysteries, even though at the conclusion I knew little more than I did at the beginning. Nevertheless, I was fascinated to see how events materialized and faded.

The mind can work like that. A few moments ago, I realized that Mann's thought and choreographic processes can be likened to…. Well, I thought I had a good image. But it evaporated. That's thinking for you. Maybe I'll remember the image or think of a better one tomorrow. Like Mann, I love tomorrow.

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