Dance, Review

Hannah Kahn Through the Years

A review by Marc Shulgold

Time sure flies in the dance world. Can it really be that Baryshnikov is pushing 70?

Age hasn’t slowed him down, just as it doesn’t seem to have dented the spirit or the creative juices of one of Denver’s veteran choreographers – Hannah Kahn. She just keeps on keeping on.

Hannah Kahn

Hannah Kahn

How appropriate, then, that the Hannah Kahn Dance Company should perform this weekend in the theater named for another ageless local dance-maker, Cleo Parker Robinson. Fitting, too, that the program, titled “Follow,” should serve as a celebration of Kahn’s productive career, encompassing works from 1980 to the present day.

A line-up of pieces from each of the past four decades might suggest the torturous path of a choreographer through her lengthy evolution, unfolding from early, hesitant steps to a world-weary maturity.

Not a chance. From then till now, one observes a consistent youthfulness and unstoppable invention in her work.

marisa2ariseThe evening’s opener, “Crest,” which has become something of a signature piece for Kahn, remains vital and current, despite dating back 35 years. Capturing the energy of the final two movements of Schumann’s buoyant Piano Quintet, the dance-maker employs a dizzying array of charming, lighter-than-air steps and combinations that flow effortlessly from one episode to another.

Match that oldie-but-goodie with the premiere of “Fruition,” which closed the evening, and it appears that Kahn is still … Kahn. In this 12-minute work (set to some delightful, tangoish string-trio tunes), six dancers garbed in bright red glide and twirl about the stage in the same sort of seamless movement that characterized the evening’s curtain-raiser. Nothing earth-shaking here – just another example of an imagination that appears boundless.

Hannah Kahn

Hannah Kahn

A similar wealth of ideas populated the program’s title work, dating from last year. Utilizing a multi-track violin score by Todd Reynolds, “Follow” begins with a series of adagio steps and gestures, marked by dancers watching each other (as the title implies), circling slowly about as they gaze over their shoulders or become seated observers, gradually speeding things up as they eye one another. It’s an interesting idea, and Kahn made the most of this singular concept without resorting to numbing repetition.

The program’s edgiest piece, “Inside Out” (1992), found Kimberly Chmielewski and Bailey Harper almost inseparably wrapped together in a pas de deux that was at once exquisite and excruciating, as it explored what seemed like two facets of one woman.  An equally atmospheric score by Mike Vargas added immeasurably to the uneasiness of this evocative piece.

Completing the program was the curiously titled “Around the Fire and on the Banks” (2000), danced by an ensemble of eight to a wildly diverse Eastern-Middle Eastern-Far Eastern soundscape by the German composer Simon Jakob Drees. Taking her cue from this ambitious tapestry, Kahn revealed some interesting ideas that were mixed in with some less-than-interesting ones. Sometimes, excited ambition can muddy up the creative process and leave the viewer a bit confused and worn out – the equivalent of visiting four continents in seven days.

Hannah Kahn Dance Company will perform Follow at 7:30 this evening in the Cleo Parker Robinson Theater, 119 Park Ave. West. Information: hannahkahndance.org.

 

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