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Choreographer delights in extraordinary show
By Theodore Bale
Saturday, November 5, 2005

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Kelley Donovan’s distinguished “Visceral Threads” answers a pressing question in contemporary choreography. How does one remain deeply expressive without resorting to obvious narrative?
    Seen last night at Dance Complex in Cambridge, the 40-minute premiere is an extraordinary turning point from an artist who has been finely honing her choreographic skills for more than a decade.
    “Visceral Threads” is aptly titled, since the events are simultaneously intuitive and strikingly cohesive.

    It’s as if Donovan retreated to the studio with her talented company of seven young women and said, “Let’s take a few emphatic movements and exhaust their every detail.”
    This is how many accomplished artists work, restricting the material and fearlessly forcing their invention.
    And it’s this very characteristic that separates Donovan from many of her peers in the local dance community.
    There’s nothing worse than a dance that moves haphazardly from one vague idea to the next.
    A taped lecture by Buddhist writer Edward Brown along with music from composers Phil Kline, Brian King (a longtime collaborator with Donovan), Punck, Wyatt Purdy and The Hafler Trio provide a mesmerizing atmosphere for “Visceral Threads” to progress.
    Sarah Chapman’s elegant costumes in shimmering black with a touch of netting here and there (a different outfit for each dancer) add an evident nostalgic glamour.
    Paul Marr’s expert lighting helps define the transitions between scenes.
    Donovan started things off with a purposeful solo on a strict diagonal path, one of her preferred trajectories on stage.
    At a rapid pace, she swooped and turned as if digging her way through some imaginary jungle setting.
    When she disappeared, the other dancers arrived to repeat the same material in a temporal shift, perhaps 10 times as slow, and eventually in canon.
    One of the many positive attributes of Donovan’s unique style is that certain material is often quoted before its complete source is revealed, and the pleasure in watching comes from thinking in circular, rather than linear, patterns.

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Kelley Donovan & Dancers, at Dance Complex, Cambridge, last night; runs through tomorrow.
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