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REACTION: Tania Isaac’s stuporwoman

Posted September 6th, 2008

Watching Tania Isaac dance is like seeing a bubbling stream of lava course across the stage, leaving both destruction and renewed energy in its path. Stuporwoman, indeed; the formidable choreography perfectly executed by its creator merits hardly less than a title of Superwoman, rather than anything suggesting muddled confusion.

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Yet Isaac’s subject is the state of stupefaction a woman can encounter as a mother, a wife, and a lover raising a child in the midst of all of the middle-class clichés. The feeling that hundreds of thousands of other mothers have done it all before only adds to the pressure Isaac expresses in stuporwoman, playing at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre through Sunday.<%image(20080906-Stuporwoman_4 web.jpg|300|300|Photo: Bill Hebert)%>

Stuporwoman morphed from being a one-person show into a piece for nine dancers, with live music by violinist Heather Zimmerman and opera singer Chanta Layton. The resulting effect is not one woman’s individualized reaction to her own confusion, but rather a community-wide exploration of the challenges of being a woman torn in several directions. Isaac uses a corps of supple, strong dancers to develop her themes, which are epic yet humorous, satirical yet compassionate, and, above all, completely visceral. We watch Isaac and her dancers alternate between being pulled quite literally in different directions, tangled in ropes, and finding themselves battered by the circumstances. And all to infrequently, we’re permitted a glimpse of Isaac dancing with total abandon among the rest of the troupe.

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The stage often seems full to overflowing with the physical representations of Isaac’s mind, as music mixes with dance, vocals and percussion, but the clarity of the dancing always emerges as the main focal point. Isaac sends her dancers into contortions that seem to perfectly mirror these real-life, yet often they also exude a whimsical air; partner lifts, headstands, and a brief section using brooms as both weapons and to carry burdens express the contrasting emotions of our narrator. Isaac’s own voice often enters into the text as well, lacing the story with a sarcastic edge, and lending a more personal testament to the action on stage.

Certainly stuporwoman is a piece about utter confusion and chaos, as well as living up to society’s expectations, and at times, the dancing is intensely difficult to watch. But as an artist, Isaac’s fiercely wonderful choreography is no match for any doubts about the strength of her work.

–Lindsay Warner

stuporwoman runs through Sunday. Click here for scheduling and ticket information.

Photos by Bill Hebert (BHPhotos.net)

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