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The American Dance Festival is presenting Argentina’s Brenda Angiel Aerial Dance Company in the Durham Performing Arts Center, as the Festival begins its fourth week. Angiel has been here before: she made work in both 1998 and 2002 as part of the (late lamented) International Choreographers Commissioning Program, and she brought her company to Page Auditorium in 2005 and the DPAC in 2010. If you saw either of the latter two programs, you have seen most parts of Air Condition, the current show, which repeats June 6.
Many companies reprise works they’ve performed in the not-too-distant past, and we are happy about it. Think of some of your Pilobolus favorites, for instance, or some exquisite Paul Taylor work (like Arden Court, which will be danced — again — July 12 and 13), or any of the great classics of modern dance that we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to watch second time, or a fifth. One thing that makes them different from the show Angiel is presenting is that we know what those older pieces are — they are not pretending to be something new. But Angiel is showing a pastiche of old work, cut, pasted and overlaid with hyperactive video graphics, masquerading as something fresh. The graphics often seem designed to distract the viewer from the weak choreography.
Air Condition is presented as a single work, but it is made up of many segments, most of which do not connect. It is thus more of an exhibition of stylish physicality than an artwork. It opens with what appeared to be Air-Lines, which we saw in 2005, and which is still exciting. Five dancers in their rigging work off the back wall as if it were the floor, so that we see them as if from a bird’s eye. They do not interact, but together make interesting large patterns as they move within projected, morphing, color-shapes to music by Juan Pablo Arcangeli and Martin Ghersa (whose score is heard throughout Air Condition). I was not sorry to see this again. I thought initially it must be a preamble to an extended exploration of its ideas, but after a long pause for rigging changes there came an unrelated and unimaginative male solo. Showy, but unimaginative, and not so impressive if you’ve seen it before. A good chunk of Air Condition is made from sections of 8cho, Angiel’s work about the tango, and they did not fare well removed from their dedicated context.
The show is not long — not much more than an hour — but on the 5th, it clunked on interminably, lurching from one section to the next with strangely long, lights-down pauses for re-rigging between each aerial act. The sound is unnecessarily, uncomfortably loud. There’s a long attack by strobe lighting, and the fast-moving video graphics are nearly as seizure-inducing. There is an excess of theatrical smoke, and among it, the video, and the lighting design, one can never see the dancers well. On the up side, you can be home eating ice cream in bed before 10 p.m.