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Flash Review 2, 3-6: Taking the Elevator to Florida
Vasquez's Promising Project

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2001 The Dance Insider

From a dance perspective, only two New York choreographers (to my mind, anyway) have succeeded in producing theater on a level with their high-caliber dance: Jane Comfort, who knows how to find talented literary collaborators, and Mark Dendy, who has the playwrighting chops himself. From a theater perspective -- at least in my limited exposure -- only one theater company has truly integrated dance so that it is not only on a level with the script, but informs it and indeed is made to look essential to an understanding of the words: Elevator Repair Service. So when I heard that an ERS alum, Tory Vasquez, was putting on a new show, "The Florida Project," as an ERS junkie who spent many of the happiest days of my childhood in Florida, I had no choice but to hie myself to P.S. 122 last weekend to check out the Gator -- and I do mean Gator -- action.

Ironically, dance, or at least the portion performed outside of the water, is the weakest element in "The Florida Project." Choreographer Kari H. appears to be trying to replicate the manner in which choreography is used to express inner and outer psychodrama by ERS: The movement, often in group formation, features the tics and gestures ERS usually amplifies to reveal the turmoil of its personae and the underlying stream-of-consciousness of its found dialogue. But Kari H. has not gone the extra step to fashion them into a choreographic language. She may still get there -- the evening had the feel of a work-in-progress, by which description I don't mean to diminish its prodigy but, if anything, to say I want more!

The setting is Weekie Waggie (sp.??) World, where hostess Beth (Kristen Kosmas) and divers Karen (Vasquez) and Virginia (Juliana Francis) put on a sort of underwater mermaid ballet show. Their World has also become the home to a Reptile world, presided over by three brothers (the hunkie Robert, played by Chris Sullivan; the psychopathic Tom, played by Richard Maxwell; and the simpering Ross Allen Jr. (Aaron Landsman), who gets to play the alligator. Put the mermaids together with the raging testosterone and Peyton Place ensues!

If you've ever been to Sea World in Florida or anywhere else, you know the drill: A host or hostess welcomes us to the show/feeding time, and others perform. The show presented by Beth and the mermaids has the ring of Florida authenticity. My Floridian companion confirmed there really is a Weekie Waggie World, and the presentations are not much different than what we saw in the East Village. Me, I only saw the real "They call him" Flipper perform, and the use of the tank in "The Florida Project" definitely evoked that world. In a pool of water that can't be more than five feet wide by three or four feet tall, Vasquez, Meyer, and the performers manage to communicate the kitschy yet lyrical beauty of these mermaid shows...plus, later, the drama of an underwater mano-a-gator fight.

What am I saying? At the risk of seeming patronizing, that this is a promising beginning -- emphasis on the "promising," not the beginning! I want to see more. It seems to me that in last year's Avant-Garde-A-Rama, Vasquez explored a different side of Florida that had more to do with her Cuban-American roots. That segment seemed more fleshed out, and more textured, offering high comedy and more than a hint of psycho-drama, with a more pointed Latin Flava. I'd like to see similar development here, and more of an evident raison d'etre for the choreography.


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