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Flash Review 2, 1-25:
Feelin' Groovy with Irene
Black Tie Optional, Good Vibes Required
By Terry Hollis
Copyright 2001 Terry Hollis
Tom Jones's "Sex Bomb"
sounds incredible on the sound system at the Joyce Theater. Dean
Martin singing "Dream a Little Dream of Me" was the perfect end
to a really long day, and Tito Puente covering the Beatles's "Yesterday"
turned the theater into the kind of La La Land that I haven't seen
since the Paradise Garage closed. One after another Irene Hultman
last night filled the theater with good dancing and nice sounds.
It was the kind of easy-going atmosphere that made you think nothing
could go wrong and everything was groovy. Robert La Fosse turned
himself into a heartbroken teenager in the premiere of "In My Arms"
and Rufus Wainwright wailed over the speakers. When I turned to
my companion to ask him some music history, he had been sucked into
Pleasantville and was loving every minute of it. According to the
program, all of the pieces were created in close collaboration with
the performers and they all did beautiful stuff with Ms. Hultman's
choreography. Black Tie Optional, presented as a part of the Altogether
Different Festival, is a nice way to see dance.
Don't get the wrong idea,
the night wasn't fluff. Ms. Hultman gets some beautiful performances
from her group. Gabrielle Malone got the night going with her rendition
of "Sex Bomb"; she has a good time taking over the stage and keeps
us wondering what she is up to. Ms. Malone keeps the audience's
eye as she parades around the stage and entices Andrew Robinson
and Andrew Asnes offstage. The three synch up as Tom Jones moves
into "You Need Love Like I Do." Powering through winding footwork,
the men don't really fight for her attention, they just have a good
time while they're there. The choreography alternates between played-down
virtuoso phrases and euphoric moments when the performers are having
a really good time. Jaime Bishton does a mellow "Dream a Little
Dream of Me," practically floating through the song but keeping
himself solid. You can barely make out Mr. La Fosse in "In My Arms";
his blonde hair covers his face as he slumps to the floor singing
along with Wainwright. He nails the image of forlorn youth right
on the head. His loose-limbed gawky walk captures all of that frustration
and his helmet of hair keeps him hidden as he stumbles and recovers.
Shelley Washington gives
an understated Earth Kitt. A song like "How Could You Believe Me?"
would make you think of a woman who loves to be the center of it
all. Ms. Washington plays it so nonchalantly, she doesn't need to
convince us of anything. The choreography tires out a little and
turns into vamping for a while, but when it's on it slicks across
the stage without becoming just technique. In the hands of Andrew
Robinson and Ms. Malone, "Yesterday" stirs up some real tension
between the two. Under the breezy Tito Puente rendition they layer
on a couple of intense moments. Ms. Malone and Mr. Asnes ripping
through "C'mon A My House" make a day-glo blur across the stage,
his bright stripped shirt ducking and weaving and crashing into
her while she makes sure he doesn't get too far away. Jodi Melnick
was probably the best example of melding the music with the movement.
Her body absorbed every note of Eartha Kitt singing "The Touch"
and luxuriated in the movements. Ms. Melnick has a beautifully intelligent
body and her dancing demands equal time with the music.
The evening ends on a
communal note. After a vivacious solo performed by Ms. Hultman to
"Day Tripper," the entire cast reassembles for "With A Little Help
From My Friends," a song that always puts the good vibes out. Mr.
Robinson seems like the most relaxed person on the stage, easily
tossing off the choreography and still seeming like an everyday
In some cases the music
in Black Tie Optional dominates the dances and in some cases it
doesn't, but the feel of the whole night is so plush and easy, you
really don't care.
Irene Hultman returns
Saturday night at 8, and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. The Altogether
Different Festival closes Sunday. For more information, please visit
the Joyce web site.
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