OF (H)AIR, HUGS, AND HOSPITALS
nytheatre.com review by Tim Cusack
D. Faith Howard is a very good student—at
least if her choreography in Of h(air), hugs, and hospitals is
any indication. A recent graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’
dance program, Howard was obviously paying attention in composition and
technique class. In fact much of this material was developed at school.
It’s also clear that she is committed to using dance to say something
about her experiences in the world. Her challenge now, it seems, is to
take the tools she’s acquired and build her own unique structures in
which to say them. From the evidence on display she’s not quite there
yet, but one gets the feeling that once she works through her academic
influences, she has the potential to emerge as a distinctive
August 15, 2002
"My Father," for example, very much feels like an experiment in using text, rather than a fully constructed portrait gallery of her dancers’ fathers and their relationships with their athletic daughters. The spoken text suggests that the state of intergenerational understanding is quite high: the only hint at conflict comes when one woman says that she and her father compete to see who can use bigger words in conversation. Otherwise, their fathers lovingly carry them to bed and wish for more children just like them. Wearing men’s dress shirts and ties over black spandex, the paternal women tap their fingers on imaginary watches, impatiently slice the air with their arms and legs as if cutting through the business world undergrowth., and point up the ladder of success. Someone’s got to foot the bills (pun intended) for their daughters’ expensive artistic training. Dancing to Ani DiFranco’s "Carry You Around," the daddies exchange their business-world isolation for the chance to do just that. The piece ends too quickly, though, for any of these ideas to fully mature, not to mention allowing for the possibility that being the provider may at times be an unbearable burden.
In "Air Travel," Howard builds herself a metaphoric airplane to soar into a dance career. The last image is simple and gorgeous: a lone woman seemingly floating above a crowd of dancers. The rest of the piece is busy with movement, but what specifically it has to say about this particular woman’s opportunities, ambitions and fears for her adulthood remains ambiguous. She’s taken her first small steps; now she needs a giant leap.