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Flash Review, 1-12: Do
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all sorts of associations and memories which sometimes superceded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"
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
"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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