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Pelton Wuz Here 

Hitler, Civil War soldiers, and circus freaks: Welcome to the dances of Stephen Pelton

Wednesday, Jun 4 2003
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Adolf Hitler and Virginia Woolf, Civil War soldiers and circus freaks have all materialized in the dances of Stephen Pelton, a modernist with a keen appreciation for history and human foibles. In The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (1998), Pelton was Hitler. Dressed in a Nazi uniform, he performed an unsettling solo based on the Führer's movements. In The Death of the Moth (1997) and A Haunted House (2002), Pelton applied Woolf's stark language to the fears of our own age. His evening-length America Songbook and Animal Acts created theatrical tableaux: dance halls, battlefields, and big-top tents, where shadowy figures and an accordionist's melancholy refrain ushered the viewer into strangely familiar worlds. Pelton's choreography is typically clean and contemporary, with a clear dramatic intent that -- combined with judicious lighting, costume, and musical choices -- can drive a story home.

The Stephen Pelton Dance Theater celebrates its 10th anniversary season, dubbed "Not Here," with the premiere of two group works and the title piece, which stems from last year's ensemble dance Harm's Way, also fueled by present anxieties but set to Radiohead and commissioned by the Ballet Central of London. September for Sale, the title dance of a forthcoming full-length piece, is threaded with similarly uncomfortable themes of violence, manifested in power and poverty. Pelton has promised a bit of sweetness in his ode to young love, My Handsome, Winsome Johnny, commingled with unrequited desire and naiveté, and set to Odetta folk songs. Guest artists Janice Garrett & Dancers contribute the folky Hither Thither, which premiered at ODC last December -- it, too, delves into love and loss, opening with a communal embrace and propelled by a stirring musical mix of Tuvan throat singing and traditional music from the Finnish women's vocal ensemble Värttinä. You'll meet new characters in this show, but you may also find a bit of yourself in the crowd.

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Heather Wisner

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