Dynamic Duo

I WENT TO a recent Hijack performance at Bryant-Lake Bowl, fully expecting to see a modest dance program befitting BLB's postage stamp of a space. Quelle surprise--as part of Take Me to Cuba, choreographers Arwen Wilder and Kristin Van Loon jammed 26 people onto the stage, busted open an upstage door, and sent the mass across Lake Street to commandeer a parking lot. There the "cast of thousands" climbed the walls of an adjacent building, counting aloud fervently, an entranced--and entrancing--task force. With the tack paper removed from BLB's storefront windows, the group appropriated a strip of Lake Street as their stage, while a much-amused audience watched from the very edges of their seats.

Hijack took lemons and made lemonade in other ways, as well. Low-tech production values and thrift-store costumes lent a sense of immediacy to the goings on, as did an electronic sign board spelling out the program notes. The street backdrop became integral to the performance, whether unplanned, as with passersby passing by, or choreographed, as when dancer Susan Scalf exited the theater in "The Beautiful Quintet" and hopped on a bike, riding back and forth in front of the windows.

There were solos and duets, to be sure, but they were more like solos as parts of duets. Van Loon and Wilder sometimes juxtaposed the same sequence of movements by performing them back-to-back, first danced by one, then the other. They also tinkered with repetition in their soundscapes, as with the duet "injenny," in which a Jamaica Kincaid text repeats for a pair of dancers. The use of recorded text--whether by Richard Hugo or quirky excerpts from a packaged harmonica lesson--was well done and often humorous.

Stylistically, Hijack cultivates both a rough-and-tumble aggressiveness and a taut lyricism. When Wilder dropped to the floor in "Little Ditties: Take Me to Cuba," it looked like it hurt. But there was also a point-your toes precision, especially when the choreographers performed. Woven into the mix were little asides, such as a curious stare, or the sweeping of a finger along a nose--peculiarities that came to seem like the incarnation of a non sequitur, or nervous tics in the personality of a piece.

It's hard to say how Van Loon and Wilder make dances together, articulating movement so confidently out of a process that must involve compromise and consensus. But to Hijack's credit, in the end such ruminations don't really matter, because what the duo puts onstage is fresh, smart, and so complete the audience doesn't need to know how it was created. The dance speaks for itself.

Take me to Cuba continues Sunday nights at 8 p.m. through May 26 at Bryant-Lake Bowl; 825-8949.

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