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Mozart meets Manhattan

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Pure music met pure modernity in the latest Martha Connerton/Kinetic Works concert, Sizzlin' SummerDance 2009. Connerton had her Kinetic women in deep purple dresses in For Love of Mozart while her guys came on for the opening allegro spiritoso in navy blue with lavender tops partially obscured by cape-like sweaters designed by Heidi O'Hare. The nine dancers often broke into three or four groups across the intimate Actor's Theatre stage -- so the absence of the tenth dancer was hardly noticeable amid the prevailing asymmetry.

But the middle movement of Wolfgang's Concertone in C for Two Violins and Orchestra i­s a contrasting andantino grazioso, where Connerton's choreography brims with stately symmetries. Even though the dancer's absence hadn't yet been announced -- the second Connerton piece of the night could not be completed without her -- I felt a certain uneasiness as this middle section unfolded and, a couple of times, found myself counting the dancers at each half of the stage.

Capes that the guys peeled off for the middle movement stayed off for the closing minuet, which kept up a brisk folksy pace in 3/4 time. There was plenty of Paul Taylor airiness in the choreography -- and plenty of what I call the "Connerton canter": dancers swinging out their elbows, pumping their knees high, and smiling blithely despite their conspicuous lack of forward progress.

Urban edginess, and an entirely different lighting scheme from Hallie Gray, invaded the stage after intermission when Connerton/Kinetic swerved to Gauge, a three-section choreography by Christina Briggs and Edward Winslow. Music by Michael Minard for the opening section, "Gauge," and by Michael Wall for the ensuing "Blueprints" was certainly apt for sketching the hurly-burly of Manhattan -- on the streets during office hours and in the privacy of midtown apartments after dark.

But if the chemistry the choreographers were aiming for didn't quite click in "Blueprints," mainly because there was no attempt to connect the action at opposite ends of the stage, the transcendence or magic they were seeking in "Resonance" never really had a chance with a second rain-soaked sample of Minard's unecstatic music. No, Gauge was more fully enjoyed by watching Connerton's fine dancers, Gray's groovy lighting, the funky costumes designed by Patti Gilstrap, and uncoupling the action in the last two sections from the program notes. The harsh footlights in the opening section added an extra noire flavor that started the Manhattan concept on firm footing.

Among the ensemble, Christopher Pennix and Alyce Vallejo Moran impressed me most with their grace and sensuality. Connerton/Kinetic has reached an apex in their artistic development. I only wish we could see them perform more often.

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