Dancers, musicians boast endurance

Sunday, February 9, 2003

The Ahn Trio might not have gotten quite as vigorous a workout Friday night as the Parsons Dance Company. But they came darn close.

The chamber music threesome -- violinist Angella and her twin sisters, pianist Lucia and cellist Maria -- played with contagious energy, each proving her individual mastery while fueling the seamless sound of the whole during their own program and again when the dancers joined them on the Lied Center stage.

Particularly dazzling was the trio's rendition of the tango "Primavera Portena" by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla. The Juilliard-trained musicians played the complex harmonies with robust certitude, dynamic discipline and familiarity, as if they grew up in South America rather than Seoul, South Korea.

Then Ahn cleared the stage for "Rise and Fall," an undulating dance choreographed by David Parsons, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and is widely known for creating dances that are technically and conceptually rich yet find appeal with general audiences. Parsons' sense of humor came through in the piece, performed by seven dancers who explored interpersonal relationships with movements that mimicked the cycle between hyperactivity and exhaustion and toyed with the relationships between weight, balance and gravity.

The show-stopper came just before intermission, when Marty Lawson elicited gasps from the audience with Parsons' 20-year-old "Caught." He began by dancing -- slow, grounded and deliberate -- into and out of emerging white spotlights, exploring his space. As the stark, electronic tones of the score mounted in intensity, Lawson freed himself and began leaping repeatedly as strobe lights flashed. In darkness, he landed; in light, he leapt. The illusion was flight, and it was incredible.

The life of the group dances in the evening's second half were greatly enhanced by the Ahn Trio's live music. The musicians played vigorously for some 45 minutes, accompanying the dancers through "Slow Dance" and "Swing Shift."

In "Slow Dance," three couples moved intimately and sultrily, wrapped around one another in twisting lifts and dips as the Ahns' strings climbed from jazzy to soaring over heavy undertones keyed in piano chords. Interspersed were moments where the dancers jittered apart, and the piece ended unresolved, the dancers searching in jerky movements for an unknown something.

Then it was swing time in a literally smoke-filled 1930s nightclub. Four couples took turns on the dance floor, playfully executing swing dance variations that sent the women spinning under the arms and around the bodies of the men and skyward in effortless-looking lifts. Intermittently, full-fledged dance parties broke out during which all eight dancers shimmied and strutted with boastful gusto.

If you could peel your eyes away from the dancers, the more subtle choreography of the Ahn Trio was also a thrill to behold. Lucia assailed the piano keys, deftly crafting musical phrases with a vigor that often brought her full off her bench.

Though at times the music suffered under a sound system too heavily amplified, the endurance, vivaciousness and technical superiority of both sets of artists brought the Lied Center crowd to its feet. And rightfully so.