It's very telling that over the course of his 40-year dance career, choreographer Marcus Schulkind has been drawn again and again to the music of Randy Newman. The sardonic humor, dark cynicism, and deep humanism at the heart of the singer/songwriter's best works are also at the core of many of Schulkind's dances, especially the solo works.
Six solos were given expert performances over the weekend in a memorable evening to benefit Schulkind's artistic home, Green Street Studios. Newman's songs were featured in both the oldest and the newest dances. Created in 1977, ``Job" remains one of Schulkind's most powerful little gems. As Newman sang ``That's Why I Love Mankind," dancer Jeanine Durning put herself through an emotional wringer, pounding the floor, throwing herself into blistering turns that repeatedly crashed to the ground. And just as she found the strength to reach toward the heavens, the weight of dashed hopes seemed to bend her backward .
``Ladies Night Out," also from the '70's, is a series of three solos, using Newman's music as well as tunes by the Beatles and Bonnie Raitt. Each dancer separately entered and exited in backward walks that set the tone of her individual solo. Audra Carabetta moved with a lush, full-bodied sweep punctuated by gestures of crystalline articulation in the hands and feet. RuthAnn Cullen danced with a lithe grace, her phrases full of breathy suspension releasing into softly weighted falls. The jagged edges in Kate Cross's sultry muscularity seemed to hide an underlying vulnerability. Though she repeated a sly, seductive slide of the hips like an easy come on, it's revealing that as the lights went down, she was perched precariously on tip toe.
There was a bit of a disconnect between Newman's ``Rollin' " and the new dance of the same name created for Ruth Bronwen. As Newman sang ``Ain't Gonna Worry No More," Bronwen spun into vigorous turns and twisting jumps, cutting through the air like a knife-thrower's blade.
The evening's most vivid work was the other premiere, ``Allemande," set to three short Baroque pieces. The exquisite Elizabeth Waterhouse has a tensile strength that conveys weight and breath all at once, and her body appears to go in a dozen different directions simultaneously. She vacillated between self-absorbed concentration and ``look at me" pride, her coy smile imparting a kind of insouciant nonchalance. A little Mark Morris-style pointing contrasted with the slightly animalistic quality of delightful little prances and quirky tilts of the head.
Lorraine Chapman gave a flawless performance of ``Radio Daze" and Jim Viera brought a compact muscularity to ``Guilty." Guest artist Clarence Brooks gave an eloquent performance of Talley Beatty's 1947 classic ``Mourner's Bench."