Boston Herald
Artist Juggles Poetry, Motion

Juggler extraordinaire Michael Moschen opened the Dance Umbrella season Wednesday night with a solid performance of mostly familiar yet enduring material. Much of Moschen's work, a sublime marriage of visual poetics and physical science that can make traditional juggling routines seem like mere muscle flexing, is steeped in illusion.

In two crossbeams of light, he caresses and swirls crystal balls that dip, roll and glide. They seem to float, suspended in midair with a gravity-defying magic all their own. A metal ring manipulated with a stick seems to move of it's own accord, with Moschen's hands merely along for the ride.

Moschen does a stunningly gorgeous exploration of the curved shape that's more modern dance combined with sculpture than anything else. And instead of the traditional circular Hula Hoop, he works with a curved teardrop shape, creating slow-moving images that call to mind an animated, lifesize spirograph. Then there are the rubber balls -- not a score of them, as many jugglers might attempt to handle, but just three -- the juggling of which Moschen eloquently and mischievously transforms into the realm of play and exploration.

When three balls are set loose inside a giant triangular frame, we are enter-rained by its whimsy, charmed by the catchy rhythms of hard rubber meeting amplified steel, and educated in the ways of physics and geometry all at once. And as if this weren't enough, Moschen throws in a little soft-shoe dance as the balls fly. He snags dance as the balls fly. He snags one or two to bounce with his feet.

There are some slow spots, and the show could use just a little tightening. The opening of "Circles" is rather lackluster, and the arrows of "Sticks/Vectors'' seem a little pretentious, a bit like filler. But then Moschen brings out a set of gleaming metal rods that dance in his hands to create a brilliant display of light and color, and all is forgiven. And the finale of juggled torches is a spellbinding spectacle of flaming arcs.

The show is beautifully set up by Dave Feldman's fantastic light design and David Van Tieghem's colorful, atmospheric electronic score.
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