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Flash Review 2, 2-9:
And DanceDanceDance at The Kitchen
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung
The second "Talking Dance"
program at The Kitchen, curated by Dean Moss and seen at its Wednesday
opening, proffered a few different approaches to the use of language
in dance performance. Several choreographers/companies integrated
text into the performance almost as a formal element. Others directly
engaged the audience in a dialogue -- if not literally, then by
telling us a story or otherwise involving the content of the text
as part of the work. Another tack was to treat text and dance as
the subject matter itself. It is clear that the use of language
can add layers of meaning. However, that alone does not insure more
meaning or richness. In some cases, it can obscure the work or complicate
it beyond its parameters.
Sarah Michelson played
with text the way she played with movement, props, and costumes.
None of it made much sense, but each element was flung onto the
stage with the same careful recklessness. Repeated passages included
"peaches for skin," and "I have not mistaken pantyhose for skin,"
alluding to the costumes of ripped pantyhose. Michaelson's scatological
style of movement included references to gymnastics and femmes fatales,
with frequent circles of coy tip-toeing.
The text used by Elevator
Repair Service is from "The Bacchae," and while it may have narrative
implications in the full-length version of "Highway to Tomorrow,"
in the excerpts performed it served as a grounding element in addition
to the highly specific choreography (by Katherine Profeta and the
company) and the jangly music. The company's style evokes that of
the Wooster Group more than contemporary dance, building a tight,
rapid-paced vehicle that is as reliant on textual gamesmanship as
on movement -- surprisingly appealing -- which comprises quotidian
gestures with neurotic ticks.
We were implicated as
witness/viewers by a number of the program's choreographers. Katie
Duck was mesmerizing -- a muscular, weathered sage -- as she sauntered
through the audience, slinking around the stage like a powerful
puma, prowling between microphones, the cellist, and sections of
dance. Duck began by muttering inaudibly, modulating her voice until
it became a preacher's, and asserting her love to a viewer until
she shook with intensity. Her dancing was just as pure, yet not
as angry, passing through turned-out lunges and opening her torso
In "Because she was..."
Cynthia Oliver, accompanied by live guitar and percussion, basically
loses it as we watch, weaving in and out of lucidity, casting spells
and attempting to chase away demons of one sort or another. She
drops in African/island/American signifiers of both dance and text,
loading a simple "mm... hmmm" with a number of potential interpretations,
and patterning words into rhythmic structures as engaging as her
Jamie Sneider is a clever
comedienne who, in "Bad is Bad. Naughty is Naughty" assumes the
role of a casino show performer. Well, showgirl, specifically, as
we first see her wearing only a giant pair of feathered wings and
a headdress; she later dons a feathered bikini, complaining all
the while, and then a catsuit. Now, move aside people, I too must
step into the Lisa
Yuskavage reference pit. As in Yuskavage's paintings, Sneider's
nudity was not only a part of the role she played, it became a subversive
element, challenging us to see beyond her Betty Boop body to larger
issues of female objectification and stereotypes. What dancing there
was mainly included some hilarious faux-Native American Indian warpath
mugging and an unselfconscious session of pop-rock dancing. I'm
not certain this work belongs in a program of dance, but she made
In "Iuj Godog?," Foofwa
d'Imobilite also made the best advantage of his body, strategic
parts of which were laced through a tubular serpentine "costume."
He was forthright about his Cunningham roots and critical of his
dancing's influences, yet his precise, strong technique kept pulling
this meandering work back on track. The stringent vocabulary cut
like a foghorn through the house, seen in maxed-out releves and
virtuosic multiple turns in second or back arabesque. In between
these explosive dance segments, d'Imobilite continued his self-deprecatory
ways. While he talked, most of the time he was on all fours, crawling
about, holding his costume's extension in his mouth.
The finale, Miguel Gutierrez's
"It's time for another one of those crazy talking dances," was performed
with Sarah Michelson, who is a perfect poker-faced partner for Guitierrez.
They spoofed the precept of talk in dance, repeatedly chanting,
"Talktalktalk! Dancedancedance!" They bounced from topic to subtopic,
hitting dance to sounds, and dance while reciting the writings of
French philosophers, etcetera, while literally bouncing around the
stage. Indeed, it was a welcome light-hearted treatment of a weighty
subject at the end of a long evening. The program was hosted by
Dancenoise (Anne Iobst and Lucy Sexton), whose expert shtick, and
Oscar-worthy costume changes, provided some comic relief to the
As if to offset the linguistic
facet, in a subtheme of the evening, many of the dancers performed
naked or nearly so. Is the inclusion of language -- the skill that
sets us apart -- so cerebrally tyrannical that it begs for something
approaching bestiality to balance it? Or is the prevalence of nudity
simply de facto in a society with no limits? Or, is it more question-raising
all around? Or are we just supposed to not notice anymore? Enough
fodder for yet another themed program, and kudos to The Kitchen
and Dean Moss for stirring the pot a bit.
Talking Dance continues
through tomorrow night. For more information, please visit The
Kitchen web site.
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