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Fringe Fest 2013 Reviews: Mariah Maloney Dance, "The Goldilocks Score..." 

If you braved the downtown streets once darkness fell and made it to the TheatreROCS stage at Xerox Auditorium Thursday night, you were rewarded with the brightly lit performance of Mariah Maloney Dance. (Sidebar: Why did I not spot a single police person, on foot or in car, anywhere in the vicinity to grant Fringe-goers a tad of security in an area largely deserted at night?).

Light plays a large role in Mariah Maloney's memories, showcased in the premiere of her multilayered piece "Light," one of three pieces her company performed to a not-large audience on the first night of the 2013 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. The work is based, in part, on Maloney's recollections of a dance with sparklers that her father performed for her and her twin sister when they were just 2 years old and living through an Alaskan winter in a homesteader cabin without electricity. Inspiration for the piece also came from a dance that the post-modern choreographer Trisha Brown created for Maloney and fellow dancer Diane Madden in 1999 in response to an image proposed by artist Robert Rauschenberg involving Brown dancing with a sparkler coming out of her head.

In any case, light is central to Maloney's piece. It begins with a single, white nightgown-clad dancer (Lara Nixon, performing her own choreography) standing with her back to the audience in silent contemplation before flitting back and forth across a string of white lights leading up to a standing oval mirror. Pretty, but lacking in real impact for me. This progressed to a fluttering core of young women leaping and twirling in white night clothes with high-powered, insect-like energy; then to a section in which light fixtures were attached to a trio of dancers' arms (audaciously performed by Nixon, Hannah Seidel, and Aya Wilson) creating a bewitching aura. The longish piece concluded with Maloney's solo in an LED light suit and featured slow, sustained movements that showcase her ability to hit and sustain difficult poses. However, I thought the costume too much the focal point; it detracted attention from the power of Maloney's fluid performance.

Hannah Seidel shone in "Space Pixilation," a piece Maloney choreographed in 2012 in dialogue with Seidel. This piece was full of beautiful extensions and strong holds which then undid themselves in frantic impulses which coursed like electricity through Seidel's muscular body. Her super-fast spins seemed to actually leave trails.

The company performs again Sunday, September 22, at 6:30 p.m. at TheatreROCS Stage at Xerox Auditorium. Tickets are $12.

The Fringe is all about discovering artists and performers. Well, I hit the jackpot with the first show I took in at this year's festival: "The Goldilocks Score and Other Dances" by Red Dirt Dance, led by Karl Rogers. Wow. Talk about stage presence. Watch out, Darren Stevenson of PUSH Physical Theatre! This guy rivals you in charisma and audience-directed, humorous dialogue. And his sense of timing is spot-on.

I guess PUSH, a group I really admire, came to mind because, like PUSH, Red Dirt Dance seems to skirt the fence between dance and theater. I would call it Dance Theatre, because some of the pieces involve extensive dialogue, use of props, and almost a plotline. Plus, Roger's expressions are as informing as his movements.

I'll skip right to the chase: "The Goldilocks Score" has only one other showing at this year's Fringe, Friday, September 20, at 6 p.m. at Geva Theatre Nextstage. Go see it. All four of the pieces have merit; the one that moved me the most was "just knot enough," a solo by Rogers in which he begins by walking to the stage through the audience, pausing to address it in plaintive banter, expounding on the awkwardness of the situation. I immediately liked him. I immediately smiled.

And it only gets better. The audience bears witness to a tragic-comedic situation in which a voice-over basically informs both the audience and Rogers that because he is so perfect, the relationship is doomed. Over.

"You're like a Christ figure. Everything you do is perfect," the voice intoned. "I can't do it anymore. I can't measure up to that... I'm not perfect and I'm not in love with you anymore."

Who hasn't been there in some way, shape, or form?

Roger's movements affixed his state-of-mind in space and time. He churned through the air, clenched his fist and arms to his side as he lowered himself into a flat-back, 90 degree pose, and repeatedly flicked his hands rapidly outwards as if he were throwing something away. We felt for him.

Likewise, "The Goldilocks Score," performed by Rogers and Paul Matteson, seems to address borders and boundaries between people. The two experimented with numerous holds, lifts, leaps, and other trust-defining movements that made physical for me the trust and emotional danger implicit in any relationship. Especially effective was the section in which Matteson ran full-out and leapt at Rogers, who caught him but stumbled backward under the weight and impact. And then he instructed Matteson to do it again. What a powerful metaphor.

The third dancer, Tristan Koepke, presented beautifully in the first piece, "We Too Cling," but his movements didn't affect me as viscerally as did Rogers and Matteson. He was almost too perfect. It was a role he was asked to play, I'm guessing, but I wanted to glimpse something more, something deeper.

And kudos to The Department of Dance at SUNY Brockport, by the way. Rogers and Maloney both currently teach there.

"The Goldilocks score and Other Dances" also takes place Friday, September 20, 6 p.m. at Geva Theatre Nextstage. Tickets cost $16.

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