delicate balance: Schmidt in “Sometimes In My Mind,
Always In My Heart.”
By Mae G. Banner
Baum and Company Dance Theatre
The Egg, May 3
to your trade” is the moral Maude Baum pronounces as Aesop’s
wolf and donkey caper offstage. That rule has served her well
for 30 years of dancemaking.
Fables,” (1987) which opened the company’s 30th anniversary
concert Saturday at the Egg, is an apt example of Baum’s unwavering
taste for the theatrical and her love of a good joke. Jamie
Cunningham’s playful choreography and goofy characterizations
appeal to children, yet “Fables” has a stylish wit that speaks
Baum is the wizard in black cloak who narrates the half-dozen
familiar and lesser-known fables. She reads from a large book,
delivering each tale in a matter-of-fact tone that also seems
to let us in on secrets the silly animals can’t fathom.
The stage set is simple—some multipurpose cubes and a ladder—and
the costumes are fabulously funny concoctions of feather boas
and Italian Renaissance masks pulled from a thespian’s trunk.
Like the dancing, the costumes work on both literal and fantastic
Sarah Schmidt, in purple lame, is a tantalizing bunch of grapes,
always out of reach of the fox, who is danced by Deb Rutledge
in football jersey and helmet. Schmidt does a slinky backbend
over the top of the ladder, teasing the lumbering Rutledge
with a cantilevered arm or leg.
Next, Rutledge becomes the low, slow tortoise to Mary Beth
Cole’s lively hare. She carries on the race with effortful
swivels of her bent legs, finally leaving a weeping Cole behind.
In one of the dance’s “wink, wink; nudge, nudge” asides to
the audience, Baum leaves her chair to bring the Hare a hanky.
She gets up again at the end of “The Swan and the Sparrow,”
spreading her arms wide so that her cloak covers the exit
of Lynda Capocefalo’s fallen sparrow, who foolishly tried
to be a swan. Cole is a beguiling swan, slowly spinning in
her medieval princess’ hat and scarf and filmy white hoop
skirt, while Capocefalo twitters around her.
Spare piano music by Vincent Persichetti provides the right
astringent note for these cautionary tales.
The well-chosen program included two expressive dances by
Baum, made 20 years apart. “Sometimes in My Mind, Always in
My Heart” (2002) was filled with agitation, while “Ennui”
(1982) was a floaty, patterned dance with an art-nouveau look.
. . . ” is a quartet of four solos to string music of Nino
Rota. Capocefalo begins it with a rooted, shoulder-rolling
passage that gradually swings into freer movement. Still,
she’s never fully free. She leans down at an angle, plants
one hand on the floor, and pivots around it.
Schmidt leaps in with extreme splits, falls, and slow rolls.
Striding off, then jumping back, she seems not to know where
she is or which way to go. She hangs her head, then spins
in a magnified gesture of indecision that leaves her in a
lump on the ground.
Rutledge raises the stakes with spins and jagged jumps, cartwheels
and somersaults, and distraught breast-beating that finally
knocks her to the ground. Agitation now approaches insanity.
Cole, the last soloist, sits on a cube, rocking and twisting
her fingers. When she discovers her lank ponytail and begins
to slap her face with it, she has taken the dance over the
line into the madness traced in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s
“The Yellow Wallpaper.”
In quiet contrast, “Ennui” put me in mind of a 19th-century
pottery vase embossed with clusters of blossoms. Capocefalo
sits at a small table, sipping from a tiny cup. At the far
end of the stage, Beth Hartle appears and begins to pace and
circle before her. The women in plum-colored jersey dresses
overlaid with one-sleeved translucent black tunics are mirror
images of each other.
They move in opposite directions to the music of Kevin Bartlett,
bending or contracting, but on different planes. They stretch
the stage space on a full diagonal, then move to the center
to grasp hands, break apart and sink to their backs. Capocefalo
returns to her seat. Is she the dreamer and Hartle her dream?
It’s a chiffon-draped mystery that looks beautiful on the
(1984), a dance for five made by Kevin Wynn to the idiosyncratic
music and vocalizing of Meredith Monk, showed the company’s
abstract side. A highly patterned work filled with leaping
shapes and springing shadows, it gained extra mischief from
Monk’s nutty music and parrotlike squawks. Raul Martinez joined
Cole, Hartle, Schmidt and Rutledge in the group antics.
As an epilogue, Baum donned a towering red-plumed headdress
to introduce the Community Celebration Dance that she and
30 years’ worth of Baum Company dancers and crew will repeat
on May 11 on the Washington Park stage as part of the Tulip
Fest. A parade of wildly different dancers of all ages and
genders bopped across the stage, each in their own style,
and spoke a word or two about the power of dance in their
lives. They danced in a circle, then subsided onto their backs
in a sunburst shape, while other dancers skipped around them,
scattering pink and white petals. Happy anniversary.