Pam Heffler and Mark Yamor each brought a varied and extensive professional dance background to their performance at Highways Performance Space this past weekend. Both have performed in the Los Angeles area as well as in New York; each have performed in works by modern and ballet artists and with companies of both genres. Among these were Rachel Rosenthal, Laurie Sefton, Heidi Duckler, Mary Jane Eisenberg, Keith Young, Murray Louis, Kitty McNamee, The New York Grand Opera Ballet and as principal dancers with The La Chaim Bottle Dancers. Heffler has and continues to work in television and film. They were not just dancing partners in their co-choreographed production of Train of Love: Life And Love On And Off The Rails; they are also husband and wife.
Entering Highways, we were welcomed by piano music performed by guest artist David Brophy who has performed at The Blue Note, Apollo Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Cutting Room, among others. Situated around the lobby were framed photographs of Heffler and Yamor dancing outdoors as well as one of their wedding photos. The lobby took on a nostalgic atmosphere with the piano music giving it the feel of a reception rather than a dance concert.
It was obvious that Train of Love was a labor of love for Heffler and Yamor and these talented veteran performers put together a well-oiled production. What was missing was anything new. Performed to popular music of the 1980s and 1990s, the choreography also remained reflective of those eras. The lyrics to all but one song was pantomimed within the dance, and the movement phrases were similar throughout most of the works. One piece was filled with long moments with the couple simply looking at each other as if they had run out of ideas. I am a huge fan of stillness, but this was different. Those spots felt awkward, not poignant.
There were ten dances separated by musical interludes performed by Brophy on electric guitar accompanied by primarily pre-recorded music. Each song, each dance took us on a journey that represented, I assume, the couple’s travels through their careers, their marriage and their enduring love. It was touching to see these two perform so well and to sense their strong personal connection. Music by Harry Chapin, Stevie Nicks, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and others told tales of love, trials, tragedy, aging and overcoming obstacles. Some came across as story dance, and one work was a film with Heffler and Yamor dancing among redwood trees, cliffs along the coastline, and on the beach next to the ocean. The film ended with a long shot of two birds flying off into the sky together; a symbol of partners for life.
The one piece that was strictly danced and not acted out was the song that shared the evening’s title, Train of Love by Neil Young. Here the couple demonstrated why they both have had the wonderful and enduring career that they shared. Humor was present in Gymboree, with two people meeting and becoming attracted to one another while working out on adjacent treadmills at the gym.
There was nothing wrong with the evening and it was very professionally done, but it felt like it belonged in a time that has long passed. These two very strong dancers and performers obviously worked hard to put together a beautifully run evening, reaching back into their past to freely express their love for dance and for each other.
The very strong lighting design and technical direction was by Darren Carter. Video Editor was J.D. Sebastian.
For more information on Highways Performance Space, click here.
Featured image: Mark Yamor and Pam Heffler – Train Of Love – photo by Glen Johnson and Sydney Tannenbaum