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Dancing around the teapot 

Hallmark Danceworks, a modern dance company in Rochester, has no permanent home. Moving from space to space, as far west as SUNY Brockport to central locations in downtown Rochester, Hallmark dancers rehearse wherever they can.

            Hallmark Danceworks includes Artistic Director Liz Hallmark and three other permanent members. When her choreography calls for it, Hallmark uses other local modern dancers to fill her needs. On a recent Tuesday afternoon, she was at the Quaker Meeting house on Scio Street. She was rehearsing a new work called "Cracked."

            "Cracked," which will have its premiere at Hallmark's concert on May 29 and 30, illustrates a political cover-up. The dance is set to the music of Tin Hat Trio, a chamber jazz group consisting of accordionist Rob Burger, guitarist Mark Orton, and violinist Carla Kihlstedt. The group's music is a blend of improvisation, contemporary, classical, folk, world, and jazz. The music composition has a very sensual feeling, similar to that found in French and Spanish folk music, but it is by no means traditional.

            "Cracked" has three sections. The first section introduces us to three female characters. The choice of three women compliments the sensuality found in the music. The first character is preoccupied with herself, consumed with her own needs. The second character is power-hungry, motivated by material gains, control, and power. The third character is a champion for "what is right."

            Hallmark chooses to set very literal movement on the dancers, but the choice of phrasing, clever use of rhythmic structure, and movement patterns give it an abstract and unique look. Hallmark is very successful in communicating to the audience the three characters' personalities and gives the viewer a hint of the conflicts between them.

            The second section brings forth the conflict. In this section Hallmark chooses movement quality to create the images of opposition. One character is very fluid and almost lyrical at times; the second is very bound and tense. Both are offset by the third character and her very strong, direct movement that is almost military.

            The relationship between all three characters is woven with a clever use of repeated movement phrases that give us a sense of the way each character will react to the problem they are about to face. At this point Hallmark introduces her prop, a teapot.

            The characters discover the teapot. As the work progresses the teapot iscracked and a vile substance comes seeping out of it. One character chooses to ignore the substance, another tries to cover it up, and the third wants to expose it.

            The third section does not bring us to resolution. Instead, it mirrors a realistic situation from the political arena: There are the people who are involved in their own selves, not knowing or caring about what is going on in the rest of the world; there are the parties in power, who try to cover up all that is wrong and benefit from our ignorance; and then there are the finger-pointers. But the situation continues and no party seems to be doing any problem solving.

            Hallmark says that politics motivates her creative energies. And she has a great sense of humor. "Cracked" will make you smile; it's satirical. It not only addresses current political situations, but also greed, power, deceit, revenge, ignorance, and intolerance --- human traits that have plagued our society throughout time.

            The performance will also include works by company members Janet Forward, Alycia Bright Holland, and Stacy Shane. Also premiering is "Passing Grip," a collaboration between Hallmark and Cadence Whittier that includes a 50-foot climbing rope and navigates the unpredictable tensions of relationship.

            Laura Schandelmeier, a visiting artist from Washington, DC, will perform her solo work "Their, Then, Now/Doing the Shorty George," a piece inspired by the film You Were Never Lovelier and Count Basie's "Shorty George" from the 1930s.

Hallmark Danceworks' concert will be on Saturday and Sunday, May 29 and 30, at Hart Theatre, Jewish Community Center, 1200 Edgewood Avenue, Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tix: $10-$15. 244-0962

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