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Starr Foster/Dance Project remembers the Holocaust with a plaintive, mature work.

Dancing through Darkness

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Following on the heels of the recent choreographer's showcase at Artspace, Starr Foster has created an ambitious new work for Starr Foster/Dance Project's upcoming concert, "Move." The work, to be presented at the Grace Street Theatre March 2-3, features the premiere of the somber "Nineteen43," along with two other works created within the last year and a half. "Nineteen43" is a 25-minute work in four sections based on stories Foster's grandmother shared with her about the Holocaust. From 1940 to 1945 in Danzig, Germany, Foster's family moved from place to place hiding from the Nazis. One nighttime move led them to a barn where they believed they fell asleep on bags of potatoes. The morning's light revealed the full extent of their error; they were sleeping not on potatoes but on a pile of corpses. It is these images and others that Foster layers into a dreamlike narrative, with sequences revolving around a young girl with her head resting on a pillow. To take on such a dark period of history and translate it into dance is risky. Sentiments can come across as cursory or despondent. Fortunately, the work avoids either outcome. Instead, this plaintive work shows a group that works well together, collectively lifting any member who falls away or gently lowering to the floor the one whose momentum can't be stopped. While staying clear of despair, "Nineteen43" maintains integrity and reveals Foster's customary range of movement. Unlike her usual fast pace, slow, elongated stretches dominate the work. The tempo is ceremonial, nearly meditative. Sometimes the action is kept to a minimum, with simple folds down from the waist or arms circling over head. Other phrases are more complex. The piece is set to Gavin Bryars' "Cadman Requiem," which imposes a mood of macabre inevitability and struggle. Yet, like the dance itself, the music's plodding tempo never gets overwhelming. More typical of Foster's work are the other two works of the concert. "Snake in the Grass" shows a lighthearted romp to big- band sounds of the '60s. Animated and comical, the dancers cavort and breeze through the dance, bouncing off the music and the playfulness of each other. Movements alternate between flopping and sharply punctuated gestures. The physically demanding "Collapse" investigates the limits of social and physical behavior. With original music by One Ring Zero, it moves quickly as dancers maneuver through a tangle of relationships. The members of the quartet eye one another with amusement or disdain while they enter and exit alliances, sometimes easily and sometimes with a lack of commitment. Once or twice, dancers drop partners who have just leapt into their arms or kick them as they roll across the floor. With the addition of "Nineteen43" to the repertoire of this company, whose members include Kendall Baltimore, Kelly Eudailey, Katie Harris, Blake Pearson and Matthew Rogers, Foster's willingness to branch into new material shows maturity. To her benefit, her style persists as does the high quality of dancing.

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