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Playing around: the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company.

Childís Play
By Susan Mehalick

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company
Schenectady Museum, Sept. 14

The dancers in Ellen Sinopoliís troupe deserve a lot of credit, not just for their technical and artistic abilities, but because time and time again they are game to take on whatever their leader throws their way, risks be damned. A few years ago, it was performing suspended from ropes and on stages that moved under foot in Beating a Path, a site-specific work presented in abandoned storefronts in Troy and Schenectady. Now, the troupe has braved the sweltering heat of summer and the unpredictability of a hillside ad hoc performance space to bring us Dancing Among the Sculptures, another site-specific event, this time bringing together the choreographic talents of Sinopoli and the sculpture of Bob Blood.

Evidently, Blood came up with the idea to collaborate with Sinopoliís troupe as part of the 40-year retrospective of his work thatís currently on display on the museumís outdoor grounds. In all, 17 of Bloodís steel forms have been incoporated into two choreographies by Sinopli. The performance space encompasses a circle of grass filled with skinny pine trees and four of Bloodís works, rimmed by the museumís circular driveway, the hill across from the museum building and the museumís side lawn. Audience members were seated in folding chairs on the pavement.

Vanishing, a dance for six women (Amy Carpinello, Eve DiTaranto, Kim Engel, Samantha Ball Karmel, Deb Rutledge and Yukiko Sumiya) set to Philip Glassí String Quartet No. 5, opened the performance. It was filled with unexpected entrances and playful movement. A single dancer (Engel) appears from behind a brick wall to initiate the work by stepping into the circle of grass. She weaves her way in and out among the pines and sculptures, leaning against the trees or wrapping her arm around one as if it were her partner.

Then sheís off, running across the drive and up the hill, where she encounters an evenly spaced line of five large scultpures. She spins and lunges her way across the massive outdoor ďstage,Ē stopping to explore the sculptures in her path. She leans into one, wraps her body around another and creates a makeshift chair as she settles back to be cradled in a crescent-shaped arm of the abstract, angular pieces.

Sheís joined by five others who emerge from the overgrowth of hedges behind the hill. What ensues is an engergetic romp, wherein the dancers roll like logs or somersault down the hill like a bunch of kids having an old-fashioned good time. Quieter moments feature the dancers arranged in linear tableaux gently descending the hill. Every now and again, the pulsing strings of the Glass music are punctuated by fire sirens or ringing church bells.

After a short break, during which audience members turned their chairs around to face the side lawn, the six women were joined by fellow company member Kevin Magee in a dance called Glyphein, which means ďcarvedĒ and is a direct reference to Bloodís sculpture. Throughout this work, which is set to Ney Rosauroís Concerto para marimba orquestra de cordas, the dancers interact more directly with eight very large-scale sculptures. Not unlike kids, they climb all over them, or hoist one from their ranks up to the higher reaches of the tall piece at the center of the lawn.

There are moments in both of these somewhat experimental dances that are intriguing and imaginative, but Vanishing is less obvious precisely because the dancers donít continually climb on or wrap themselves around the sculptures. Even so, the visual impact of Vanishing is diffused because the dance is spread out over such an expansive performance space; itís a problem of scale, as the dancers are really dwarfed by their surroundings.

Dancing Among the Sculptures will be performed again on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 5:30 PM at the Schenectady Museum, Nott Terrace Heights, Schenectady. Bring a lawn chair. For ticket information, call the museum, 382-7890.


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