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Flash Review 3, 10-31: The 'Tracks' of My Fears
Scary "Tricks & Tracks" from Hungary

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2001 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- Make no mistake about it, Halloween has arrived big time in Paris this fall. What's quaint about the festivities here -- and I don't use that term in a derogatory sense -- is that it's Halloween as it used to be in the US: Witches, black cats, Dracula, goblins, monsters, jack-o-lanterns. None of the silly stuff, just the scary characters that were meant to populate the holiday. From the boulangeries to the pharmacies to the travel agencies, every storefront seems peopled by these characters and props, all in orange and black, natch. I, however, encountered what is likely to be my biggest scare of the season (excepting the present global reality) last week at the theater, where Hungarian Pal Frenak's company, performing something called "Tricks & Tracks" at the Theatre de la Bastille, scared the living day-lights out of me with something I can only call EURO-TRASH. Are you ready to be frightened out of your wits?

As the legendary Joe-Bobb Briggs, critic of many a drive-in movie gore-fest where "Tricks & Tracks" would have fit right in, might put it: We're talking gratuitous bimbo in red skirt and high heels blood-vomiting; gratuitous nekkid breast bobbing; gratuitous upside-down nekkid trapeze twirling; gratuitous runway strutting; gratuitous nekkid duets between guy on ground and woman hanging upside-down from trapeze; gratuitous chalk-covered penis; gratuitous odor of sex (literally); gratuitous abominable snowman; gratuitous sad-clown-face make-up; gratuitous goth; gratuitous stilettos; gratuitous throw-myself-against-the-wall repeatedly phrases; gratuitous kilt on bald-headed guy; hell, gratuitous bald-headed guys; gratuitous faux-Petronio choreography; gratuitous posing at the audience; gratuitous attitude; gratuitous clogs; we're even talking, folks, gratuitous sign-language! (It was noting that there was a "sign language instructor" that lured me into this haunted house in the first place.)

As I endured the monotonous thumpiing housey-techno quote unquote "score," I couldn't help reflect on my colleague Faith Pilger's Flash of Doug Elkins's "House Project," taking place across the Ocean in -- boo-hoo -- NYC. Where Elkins (and his progeny like Ben Munisteri and David Neumann) has considered a palette of club and concert dancing, and merged the best elements of both, what Frenak perpetrated was to take the worse of the club scene and infect concert dancing with it.

Of course, after any trauma, one of the first questions the survivors ask is, "Why?" I know you hate it, with some justification, when I bring extra-performance considerations into a review, Monday-morning quarterbacking presenters and all. But looking at the program credits, it might be simply that Frenak got a lot of money from Hungarian cultural organizations, not to mention the French AAFA, and -- yikes! -- even the Soros Foundation. So the costs of presenting the show may have been taken care of, box office and good reviews be damned.. The program also has something from Frenak about, if I understand the French, the wages of capitalism on the previously Communist Hungary. (Perhaps I just couldn't relate.)

I will survive; after a sojourn here last fall, the France Moves festival in NYC in the spring, a summer festival, and a couple of months of shows this fall, I guess I was overdue for some Euro-Trash. Most of what I'm seeing here still gives me more thrills than chills. Roland Petit and the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, essaying the grisly tale of a hunchback, carried it off with dignity and class despite the sometimes over-the-top haute couture. And tomorrow night I check the POB in "Giselle," as re-conceived by Mats Ek, who at least, I already know, can create interesting choreography.

I might also just take the train under the channel to London, where El Elkins and Crew hold forth November 11 - 18 at the Peacock Theatre in the West End, with an expanded, evening-length version of "The Look of Love." Check it!

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