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Flash Review, 1-12: Do Not Disturb
Dendy Plays it 'Cool'

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung

Mark Dendy's newest evening-length work, "I'm Going to my Room to be Cool Now and I Don't Want to be Disturbed," is a hyperactive kinetic interpretation of rock and R&B classics from the decades of Dendy's youth, primarily the '60s and '70s. Opening the Altogether Different Festival Wednesday at the Joyce, it was mostly fun to watch, nearly bereft of apparent meaning (in stark contrast to Dendy's previous evening-length work, "Dream Analysis," which could be explicated at length) and a bit of a marathon for the performers and, regrettably, the audience.

The music selection is brave indeed. With the exception of a few numbers, I would say that a majority of the audience could sing along in slumber. Warhorses such as "Black Dog" (Led Zeppelin), "Fire" (Jimi Hendrix), "Proud Mary" (Ike & Tina Turner), and "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" (Lou Reed) lay down a soothingly familiar background. With it, I conjured all sorts of associations and memories which sometimes superceded the action on stage. At times, the movement was in complete harmony with my own kinetic reaction, such as the cool walk that Lou Reed's hymn practically demands. (This piece seemed to most successfully utilize Dendy's acute sense of high camp and humor.)

The choreography, by Dendy (who also directed) and associate artistic director Lawrence Keigwin, took its cues primarily from the music, unsurprisingly. Each song had its own recurring movement motif, often based on its musical parallel -- palms flipping in and out, jumps with an arched back or to the side, a slinky backward walk. But there seemed to be little enlightenment within the music, in the way dance can elegantly draw out a felt, rather than spoken, sentiment. The phrasing, for the most part, was fractured and pieced together, seemingly jerry-built around each song's all-important motif. Transitions between numbers held the most dramatic force, where relationships were fleetingly defined, costumes shed, or lives ended. The costumes, often sheer layers over velvet or shiny undergarments, were by Bobby Pearce and changed with every song; lighting was by Dale Knoth.

The dancing itself had flashes of brilliance. Keigwin is one of the most riveting performers working, with a cognizance of his entire body's equilibrium and a velvety, controlled pace to his movement that is sublime. In "Papa was a Rolling Stone," he moved across the stage in either vertical or horizontal circles, crumpling to the floor in soft lunge on half-toe. The other dancers (Todd Anderson, Nicole Berger, Timothy Bish, Ashley Gilbert, Steven Ochoa, and Christalyn Wright) were consistently fine, each contributing their own charm to the mix, with a particularly moving (and lyrically choreographed) passage by Ochoa in "Blue" (Joni Mitchell) and a searing, soul-baring ending by Berger in "Wave" (Patti Smith).

The finale, Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," underscored the piece's fault lines. There was Robert Plant, singing his heart out like perhaps no one before or since, with Led Zeppelin practically demanding that we move in our seats to Jimmy Page's frenetic guitar, and making a strong case for putting movement to this music. Then we saw the dancers on stage pretty much romping like a pep squad (a feeling evoked in no small part by the costumes -- tie-dyed, fringed shorts sets with matching aerobics shoes -- that distinguished themselves from the rest of the evening's by their awfulness), stooping to "roll" each other across the stage as the words matched the action in a fairly unmusical reading of the piece. Is there a way that anyone could rival the adrenaline, and the emotional baggage, contained within all this music?

"I'm Going to my Room to be Cool Now and I Don't Want to be Disturbed" repeats tomorrow at 2 p.m. and Sunday night at 7:30. For more information, and for a complete schedule of the Altogether Different Festival, please visit the Joyce web site.

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