Sheryl Miller's New Dance Drama Is A Tad Heavy On Personal Philosophy.
By Margaret Regan
THERE'S A MOMENT in Epiphany, Sheryl Miller's new dance drama, when Ego and Id duke it out. Miller as Id is no slouch. She repeatedly throws Ego, Jerry Woods, to the floor, where he lands each time with a bone-wrenching crack. The scene is chilling, but at least its visceral violence makes the audience sit up and take notice, more than one can say about most of this solemn production.
Id may defeat Ego in this scene, the seventh in a concert divided into 10 parts, but Ego seems to have gotten the best of Id as far as the whole show goes. Miller's production, at the Tucson Center for the Performing Arts through this weekend, represents the first time the dancer has had a chance to get her own modern choreography on a Tucson stage, a laudable goal, surely. But in the program she gives herself credit for "conception, producer/production manager, director/choreographer, lighting designer, costume designer, design of oil painting, publicity." That doesn't include the title poem, which she wrote and recites on tape while she dances in the opening scene. In fact, she's on the stage almost the whole evening.
There are three other dancers in the show and two of them, Woods and Christine Walker, get some credit for choreography collaboration. Nevertheless, Epiphany is much too much Miller. It's a tricky business, this phenomenon of the concert masterminded by one person. Most aspiring multi-media choreographer/dancer types would do well to have a critical artistic director on hand to offer some hard-nosed advice. Of the several one-person extravaganzas staged in Tucson in recent years, only a few linger happily in memory. Annie Bunker of Orts a year ago staged a wonderful autobiographical journey, told through poetry, dance, music and photography. Though about her, she conceived her subject in universal terms so that it had some resonance with other people's lives.
Not so with Miller's Epiphany, which tries and fails to make compelling drama out of vague psychological archetypes: Id, Ego, Mask and Animal. The earnest story seems to be about the journey of these disconnected beings toward unity and a spiritual epiphany.
There are a few nice dance moments, particularly in the final scene, "Contact," when Miller moves the four performers through some interesting circles and parallel marches around the stage. Gregory Colburn, a respected local dancer, does a fine sinewy turn as Animal early on, in scene four, twisting about on all fours. Walker, who teaches acting at Pima Community College, is an engaging comic presence in her solo scene, "Mask." In great frustration she tries on one set of clothes after another, trying to squeeze herself into too-tight jeans, jamming her complaining body into low-cut velvet. While she struggles with these sundry masks, two voices on tape give her conventional conflicting advice about dressing like a good girl and dressing like a vamp.
Where this neo-realism fits into the soggy metaphysics of the rest of the hour-long concert, it's hard to say, but it's the most successful scene of the whole show. Next time Miller launches a work, she'd be better advised to try more of this wry dance commentary and leave the high-falutin' philosophy behind.
Epiphany: A Dance Drama Experience continues nightly at 8 p.m. through Saturday, August 17, at the Tucson Center for the Performing Arts, 408 S. Sixth Ave. Tickets are $7 at the door. For reservations and information call 795-4312.
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