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21-foot scaffold is highest point in 'Pipe Dream'


The 21-foot high scaffolding that dominated Towson State University's Stephens Hall Theater's stage this weekend was as much a performer as the Boston Dance Collective (BDC), the dance troupe that performed "Pipe Dream."

The structure -- an amalgamation of scaffolds, ladders and pipes fitted together -- created an environment in which the six dancers rolled, swung, hung, climbed over and supported each other as they maneuvered their way to the top. It seemed to change as the relationships of the dancers shifted; mazes, cubicles, cages, and apartments could be imagined.

Presented as part of the Dance on the Edge Series, "Pipe Dreams" is a collaborative work by BDC artistic directors Judith Chaffee, Martha Armstrong Gray and Dawn Kramer. It's danced to an electronic score by composer Caleb Sampson and expert lighting design by Stephen Buck.

The movement of the dancers -- Ann Brown Allen, Jamie Huggins, Nicole Huggins, Carlo Rizzo, Micki Taylor-Pinney along with Ms. Chaffee -- was natural yet stylized. Their high energy level and intense focus was intriguing. Whether swinging, doing a chin-up or somersaulting, movements were varnished with technical expertise.

Yet, for all its stunning visual impact, the work was often monotonous -- especially in the first of its three sections, where a series of rolls up and down a diagonal ramp seemed to last forever. There were references to the beginnings of life,as various creature-like movements were shown. One man inched his way up the ramp like a worm, a woman hopped like a frog, another perhaps was a primate. Once they reached the top they tumbled back to the bottom and started again.

The section dragged on long after the audience had appreciated its meaning.

In the second section, relationships -- conflict, love, community

-- were in focus. At one moment three women looked like bats as they hung upside down. When the ensemble split into separate cubicles, then danced in unison, the image was dramatic and effective.

The ending of the work felt hollow. The ascent of the dancers up the ladders was never capped by a dramatic resolution. The timing was rushed and what should have been a satisfying conclusion, merely ended.

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