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Flash Flashback, 9-15: Shadows of our Remembered Ancestors ‘Labor Union’ Works it; Workum and Rawls Paint the Ark

By Alison D’Amato
Copyright 2007, 2016 Alison D’Amato

(Originally published February 15, 2007.)

NEW YORK — For an art form that’s barely a century old, modern dance often appears obsessed with its own legacy. Maybe that’s because our ranks are so slim, the branches of our family tree still so close to its roots; most dancers my age (which is an admittedly green 26) have had, and probably also adored, a teacher who danced with Trisha Brown or Merce Cunningham. We can often even trace ourselves, perhaps through the teacher of a teacher, to Martha Graham herself. It’s empowering to feel a part of that history, and crucial to understand it. The trouble is, the closeness of it is often overwhelming enough to keep a young choreographer from finding her own voice. While innovation is often singled out as the ultimate mark of choreographic achievement, some dance makers choose to address that fact as problematic, and reincorporate the past as something all their own. Two pairs of such dance makers appeared on a split bill at Dance Theater Workshop last weekend. One of those calls themselves “The Labor Union,” and is manned by co-creators Isabel Lewis and Erika Hand. The other is made up of Katie Workum and Will Rawls.

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