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November 15, 2004

Dance move by Singing City

Philadelphia Inquirer:

In its 57th season, Singing City is among the stalwart choral groups in Philadelphia. Like other arts organizations around the city, it seeks to attract new audiences by including works by contemporary composers and through collaborations with artists in other disciplines. With music director Jeffrey Brillhart conducting Voices of the Heart, the Saturday evening performance, Singing City drew a full house at Philadelphia Cathedral. Their collaboration was with dancer/choreographer Amanda Miller and videographer Tobin Rothlein, who recently broke away from Phrenic New Ballet to form miro dance theatre.

With the chorus singing Benjamin Britten's "Rejoice in the Lamb," Miller and Rick Callender performed in 19th-century costume. Miller first appears to enter the space through a ladies' vanity table with a triptych mirror, outfitted by Rothlein with screens showing her dancing image. The two begin their dance from seated positions in front of the vanity. As soprano Anne Hess, alto Sharon Babcock, tenor Steven Zeigler and bass Jonathan Hill enter their space, the dancers remove clothing - skirt, peplum, frock coat, bodice - and drape them over the singers. In turn, the singers replace them on the dancers' laps as they return to the chorus at the end of the dance.

The whole had an anachronistic feel as the provincial-looking couple danced spare modern movements interspersed with touches that once were featured in coy country dances, as when Miller crosses her wrists over her bosom and directs her gaze demurely downward. Nancy Dowlin's four-sectioned Rumi Reflections fit right into the program's other works by Schumann, Bruckner and Rachmaninoff, but for contrast, I would much rather have heard the more contemporary sounds of a Toby Twining or a Jennifer Higdon.

Posted by acapnews at November 15, 2004 9:16 PM