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Ghost Dancers

Yes, funding for dance shrinks, but demand grows, and not just for Paul Taylor, Martha Graham, American Ballet Theater.

   While Jacob’s Pillow schedules stars and burning-to-be stars, Kaatsbaan, that slightly scruffy and much adored  dance center in Tivoli, NY, filled the house twice last weekend by resuscitating ghosts from the late 19th century.

   “Let your mind go back in time,” Kaatsbaan president Bentley Roton told the packed house. It was a Kaatsbaan crowd: women of a certain age with great legs and lined faces; teens in pink tights and drop earrings; mothers of teens in pink tights and drop earrings; boys from Bard with lots of hair and patchy leather jackets; people in Peruvian panchos, or tight jeans, or long skirts and boots, and ropes of stony neckaces. A little rakish; a fine dance crowd.

   “Enjoy the aesthetics of another time,” Roton urged them.

   And another time it was, featuring dancers who replicate, as best anyone can, the work of Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis and Loïe Fuller.

   Jeanne Bresciani, a protege of Maria Theresa Duncan, Isadora’s  adopted daughter, opened with an early and typical Duncan piece to music by Johann Strauss. And though her gown was soft and gauzy, it was not Duncan soft and gauzy. But the moves from the center of her body, the fluidity and strength and her responsiveness to the music were pure Duncan. And though she did not point her feet as later teachers required, she was Duncan to the heart and soul.

   Livia Vanaver recreated a work by Ruth St. Denis: a peacock in every way — heavily costumed and birdlike, the way birds on solid ground are. Jerky. Out of place.

   And Jody Sperling, who performed pieces by strange little Loïe Fuller, swirled, using long sticks to whip 80 yards of white silk through white and colored light, only her flat little feet visible as she circled and whooshed across the stage, a hair’s breadth from vaudeville. And the audience loved it. A lot.

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