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Flash Review 1, 1-29: Food for Thought
What it's Like to be Human

By Jill Emerson
Copyright 2001 Jill Emerson

It was more than Food for Thought. Food for heart, food for laughter, food for wanting to get out of your chair and be like a kid. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening of trios curated by Heidi Latsky Friday at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, and let me tell you why.

The night, the first of three this weekend to benefit local food programs for the poor, began with a video of Terry Dean Bartlett at his 1985 dance recital. "Vanishing Point '85," choreographed by "Miss Kate," was genius because it defied the audience's expectations. Who knew that Danspace Project would present a "Miss Kate" jazz routine from the '80s at St. Mark's? (We've all either been in or have had to sit through one of these things. My own were performed at Jeralyn's School of Dance.) Terry Dean Bartlett had another surprise for us yet to come.

Though Friday's program displayed a range of human emotion and dance styles, some themes did arise. Athletic partnering and an abdication of the body added thrills in "Give (X) Take," "How to Get Right With God," and "Tangle." "Winning," "Table 4," and "RAW(hide)" gave lessons in being playful. "Vanishing Point" was all that and more.

In "Give (X) Take," performed by the choreographer, Yoel Cassell, and an arresting Eileen Schwartz, I had the feeling the performers were beating each other even when not touching -- yet they never made eye contact and didn't care enough about the other to actually want to fight. What made the missed connections and the physical fury more interesting was that it was danced with a contrasting delight. I have a feeling Schwartz and Cassell enjoyed the struggle. Tom Aldrich played Concerto in D minor after Marcello by Bach.

"Winning," choreographed by JoAnna Mendl Shaw, was the archetype of a kid, and what a sweet, charming kid it was. Mendl Shaw transformed herself from a broken toy to an enabler of playfulness. There's magic in children, and a dance about being a child is more charming when there's an actual child performing. One question: Is Techno Bop It the Mr. Mouth of this generation?

In "How To Get Right With God," the performers go to any length to be human, even if that means biting the knee to pick it up in order to locomote. Walter Dundervill has a strangely beautiful way of moving -- can biting, slapping, and slamming yourself approach the sublime? Yes. There is beauty in our own dysfunction.

Dysfunctional waiters is what we saw in "Table 4." To the sounds of clinking glasses, murmurs, and Italian serenades, three waiters interacted with a table and three dishtowels in every way possible. I liked the lifts that stalled mid-air, the closeness of the performers while wrestling with the table, and the use of the table as a fourth dancer. Joel Sherry should show his piece at Tavern on the Green for tips!

Edward Winslow and Christina Briggs have created a movement vocabulary of gymnastic, aggressive partnering that requires impeccable timing. They are able to do this fierce movement in a manner that makes it look incredibly natural and soft. In "Tangle" bodies intertwined; the performers used each other to the point of exhaustion.

I've never seen a dancer eat cigarettes, fried chicken, and a fly before. And this was all in one dance! "RAW(hide)" cracked me like a whip. Carrie Ahern provided campy entertainment with a western theme. She's brilliant with physical comedy.

Finally, the surprise. Terry Dean Bartlett did a "Historical Reconstruction" of his recital dance from 1985! He must have paused that videotape a thousand times, because the "reconstruction" was accurate down to the "I'm so cool -- but what's that step?" facial expression. Kicked Ass.

Sponsored by Arts Against Hunger, you could get all this for just five bucks and two cans of food. The weekend's other programs were curated by Wendy Perron and Susan Osberg.

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