Fringe Shorts: Moment of Life

Lightsey Darst listened to DRP Dance's "Moment of Life" with appreciation, but thought the choreography fell short of the music. You can see it Sunday, 8/13, at 7PM at the Southern Theater.


Danielle Robinson-Prater is so determined to show us what she’s got that she packs her Fringe hour with Coal Blends, a suite of Appalachian-inspired dances complete with calico dresses and down-home footwork; two swaying, keening, moody pieces set to Philip Glass’s swaying, keening, moody music; and a swatch of choreography backed by Ben Siems’s cool jazz. What all these pieces have in common is not apparent, other than Robinson-Prater’s ballet-inflected, fairly traditional modern choreography. Granted, Moment of Life is such a big envelope that almost anything would fit in, but I wish Robinson-Prater had narrowed her focus. With something else to follow, I might not have noticed her choreographic weaknesses in piece after piece.

Not that her weaknesses aren’t matched with some strengths. Robinson-Prater has the courage to be heart-felt; she’s not afraid of solos, and conquers one difficulty of solo choreography, filling up the stage space, with aplomb; generally she’s good at moving people around stage. She can handle stillness and she can suggest depth: she does particularly well in her group piece for Zenon’s Block E student dancers. She seems to treasure her music, and her two Glass pieces flow by the eye fairly pleasantly—but then Glass is so satisfying to the ear that it hardly matters what’s going on on stage. And her sense of music becomes after all one of her stumbling blocks, as you start to wonder, after a while, exactly what part of the music Robinson-Prater hears. In a thrilling Glass crescendo, Robinson-Prater has her dancers. . . grow. Slightly. This literalism keeps her choreography from becoming an equal partner with the music.

Her pieces also suffer from a certain flat squareness which some clever arm manipulation can’t mitigate. Risk is missing; you can see all the dancers smiling rather painfully as they sustain this step and that step—difficult, but rather pointless balances predominate. Partnering looks awkward, without any ecstasy as payoff; the floor and the air above the dancers’ heads only occasionally get touched. . . The word vanilla comes to mind.

So it might seem odd that I wish Robinson-Prater had expanded Coal Blends, which has more than a little in common with a tub of Neapolitan ice cream, into her entire Fringe show. Yes, the other pieces prove her sophistication, butCoal Blends has promise. Here Robinson-Prater takes a fairly conventional modern-does-bluegrass vocabulary and manages to infuse it with sensuality. You can feel and see, for a moment, how a North Carolina woman might have gotten her hips into that music, and that’s interesting. Alas, just as Robinson-Prater’s getting into it, getting beyond style and into a complex of feelings (a tinge of depression along with the sensuality), she caps Coal Blends with a dull duet and gets out. Maybe Robinson-Prater doesn’t hear, but this piece is crying out for more time.

Robinson-Prater’s dancers all acquit themselves well, Nate Saul particularly, but lanky, livewire Sara Stevenson stands out.


Sitting in front of me in the audience was a woman who was clearly moved by this performance. She kept raising her hands to her mouth; her head and neck swayed in sympathy. Oh to be that woman, with the heart like an open room. I like my critical faculties—don’t get me wrong, I can’t imagine life without them—but what are they worth in the face of that delight?