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Flash Review 1, 6-8: Powerful Monte Diluted by Brown
Behind Every Great Woman, There's a Man Itching for the Spotlight

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2001 Maura Nguyen Donohue

There are a great many gambles in marriage. Tuesday's sold-out gala opening of the company formerly known as Elisa Monte Dance revealed where one of those gambles might not necessarily pay off. A couple years ago Elisa Monte began sharing the marquee with David Brown, her dance partner and husband of more than two decades. A generous concession. I, of course, couldn't help but wonder if a male choreographer would ever willingly share the credit quite so equally with a woman. And, of course, we all know the public gauntlet a woman would have to run in the face of such nepotism. So, after a long evening at the Joyce Theater full of more than a fair share of Brown's work, I left thinking, "Behind every great woman there's a man itching for the spotlight."

Brown's rather analytical work makes the vision of the company cloudy. It's a compromise that leads to dissolution. I'm there in the theater because dance is something I want to experience in my body, not my head. We go to see Monte/Brown Dance because this company is ferocity in motion. Monte's work is known worldwide because she creates tour-de-forces that grab you in the lowest reaches of your gut and hold you captive. Her work is raw, vibrant, sexy and powerful. The dancers are a gorgeous, sleek collection of movement machines from all reaches of the globe. Her revival of the almost 20-year-old "White Dragon" is rampantly fierce. The attack of the movement, the relentless drive of Glen Branca's music, the formidable and focused performances of Natalie Turner, Fabrice Lamego, Caroline Nehr, Bradley Shelver and Silvia Vrskova create a truly visceral reaction. It's like observing the onset of a serious panic attack, except in rapture. Monte makes dances like a Hong Kong action movie where only the seemingly superhuman can survive. ESPN's Extreme Games got nothin' on this woman. In fact, they were over a decade late.

And she doesn't let up. Monte choreographs like she writes. Her program notes for "Shattered" (a premiere) read, "Life throws its blows, we are stunned, thrown back and sometimes, shattered." Perfect words for a work that blows through you like a hurricane. Nadine Mose, Marden Ramos and Brian McGinnis join the rest of the company in razor sharp performances. This dance is so potent you can almost taste the ashy aftertaste of a thunderbolt. Clifton Taylor's striking lighting, albeit on occasion distractingly stagey, puts us amidst the clouds during a temper tantrum on Mt. Olympus.

The Gala treat was a performance of Monte's first work "Treading." It was eloquently introduced by Judith Jamison, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who announced that this duet would once again be n the Ailey's repertory. It was performed at the gala by the original dancers, Brown and Monte, and was testimony to the wonder of such a unique history of life and work between these two artists. In 1979 it was the dance that put Elisa Monte on the map; in 2001 it is the example of staying power. Hell, Jamison appropriately gave props to Anyone who can last in the dance world for 5 minutes.

Monte/Brown Dance continues at the Joyce through Sunday. For more info, please visit the Joyce website.

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