Minneapolis, Minnesota

DRP Dance is presenting Modern Muses, a work in seven movements, in the 2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival. This year marks DRP’s third appearance in the Fringe. It is my first encounter with the modern dance choreography of its founder, Danielle Robinson-Prater. Attending one of five performances at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis is a perfectly pleasant way to spend 45 minutes.

The opening segment, set to Arvo Part, introduces four dancers – Joanie Mix, Jill Hargreaves Murphy, Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw, and Gretchen Talbot – and their program. Black costumes and momentary pools of white light produce a classical set of images in a series of movement vignettes spaced around the stage.

Three solos follow, labeled in order as the muses of hope, knowledge, and conflict. Hargreaves Murphy dances first, to Mozart, in a lyrical movement that mines the music’s timing smoothly and without complexity. Stevenson Scrimshaw takes the stage next with musical backing by Villa Lobos. She is followed by Mix, whose accompaniment by the electronic music artist Aphex Twin does not suggest conflict.

While the musical tempo picks up in a second full-group section – again, Aphex Twin – the collective movement tempo does not, although individual dancers give evidence of matching the music. This section sports the only few moments when the dancers show any uncertainty about the choreography. Talbot’s subsequent solo as the Muse of Passion has an internal, organic feel that embodies the music by the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins more effectively than was the case for the group finale.

Robinson-Prater has a good sense of choreographic structure but command of a limited movement vocabulary. After a few minutes of viewing, one has the feeling of seeing the same dance repeated to different music. This choreographer and her dancers work hard. She is capable of much greater accomplishment, as are they.

In future, someone needs to proofread the printed program for spelling and the inclusion of last names for production personnel. Yes, the Fringe is a somewhat informal affair in the heat of August, but God lives in the details!

DRP Dance and Modern Muses continue at the Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave., S., Minneapolis, Aug. 9 @ 10pm and Aug. 10 @ 7pm. Admission: $12 + one-time purchase of a $3 Fringe Festival button.

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