Dance performance offers moving study of family troubles


A philandering husband, a lesbian daughter, a do-nothing son and a mom who keeps her family together like crazy glue. Is this a soap opera? No, these are the characters populating New York choreographer Stephen Koplowitz' work "Thicker Than Water," which was presented over the weekend at Towson State University as part of the continuing Dance on the Edge Series.

Blending text and movement, "Thicker Than Water" peels back the layers of a family, exposing its strengths and weaknesses. Mr. Koplowitz deftly draws his drama in two acts, using subtle choreography and his own well-crafted words and those of Martha Hirshman.

In the first act, the family introduces itself. Family histories and mythologies are given, incidents discussed. A sunny family portrait is taken, and sentiments from greeting cards are verbalized. At first glance, this family with the spunky daughter, funny off-center dad, apple-pie mom and happy-go-lucky son is nearly ideal. Sure, there are moments that aren't so rosy, but we all have our idiosyncrasies.

In the second act, what were small personality chinks are revealed as whole chasms of character defects. This family is like most, with betrayals, misunderstandings, rivalries and blindness to reality. Each character reveals hopes and --ed dreams, and at the conclusion a, nicely wrought sense of dramatic accomplishment.

Billed as an "inter-generational company" Stephan Koplowitz & Company answers the question, "What happens to old dancers?" If they're lucky, they end up in this dance troupe the way veteran performers Stuart Hodes or Alice Teirstein have. A large part of this company's attraction and power is that the dancers are not from one generation.

Mr. Hodes as the dream-driven father and Ms. Teirstein as the long suffering mom gave top-notch performances. Michael Davis the carpenter son and Martha Hirschma as the lesbian daughter were equally realized. While the theme of the work was melodramatic, at no time did the characters wallow in self pity. Instead, the strength of Mr. Koplowitz & Company is the dramatic embodiment of a simple observation of family life: It is never what it seems.

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