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Flash Review 2, 7-21: Con Queso, Energy, and Drama
Dance Theater, Straight and with Chase(r)

By Angela Jones
Copyright 2001 Angela Jones

Intelligent entertainment. It's not an oxymoron, folks. I am witness to the fact that D.Chase Angier knows how to produce just that...a rare gift. During my evening at the Joyce SoHo Thursday, I realized that I kept forgetting that I was there to review Chase Dance Theater, I was enjoying myself so immensely. At most dance concerts, I find myself thinking so critically and analytically, that I forget to enjoy myself. The evening of works, Permanent for Now, was not only constantly intriguing, but showed a great range of style, vocabulary, subject, and imagery. Every piece was a fresh journey into a wild unknown world.

The first piece, "Con Queso"-- "With Cheese" -- was very aptly named. It immediately grabbed the audience with it's presentational, sardonic attitude. As D. Chase Angier wiggled her fingers with a plastered smile, Veronica Dittman stared at the audience with a straight deadpan look, each woman adopting an individual yet obviously acquired performance style. The sustained contrast (with Stephanie Smith adding a butt wiggle here and there) made for a hilarious rhythmical structure as well as highlighting the inherent ironies in the job of performing. We, as the audience, immediately knew we were in the hands of a director/choreographer who was aware of us.

I was looking forward to seeing "Red Delicious," as I personally have an obsession with exploring archetypes and deconstructing fairy tales. The costumes, the imagery, the props, the music and the dancing (especially Dittman as Snow White) were all captivating, but unfortunately I felt that the blurb from the press release ruined it for me. It told me it was supposed to be about an older Snow White being taunted by younger versions of herself. However, it was very clear that all the dancers were the same age and there was nothing in the older Snow White's manner to indicate age other than the cape she was wearing. I also was not entirely sure what the poisonous apples were supposed to represent exactly. Aside from the apples and mirror, I didn't really see any connection to the Snow White story. It was clear, however, that the caped one was trying to obtain something that was out of her grasp and that she was powerless over these Les Sylphides-type ghosts coming out of her mirror and laughing at her weakness. That alone, without all the confusing context, was striking.

The energy went right back to its hilarious start with "Wild Kingdom." We saw a family that watched birds, and then we got to examine them in their own native habitat at the dinner table. Each performer was such a fulfilled character, from the little sister who was the "duck-billed platypus" to the lawyer/father ("the great bald eagle"), to the mother ("gentle deer") to, finally, "the hairy-nosed wombat" who ended up with no dessert. Themes and variations came back, making each new entrance funnier and funnier. The scene was recognizable and yet absurdist at the same time. Each character fulfilled their animal essence and yet remained characteristically in his or her typical role as a family member. As they ran frantically around chasing each other, or shoveling food, one felt that each person was using every inch of their face, big toe, whatever to get the point across, making them interesting to observe and yet endearing at the same time.

The final piece, "Waiting," was an incredible contrast to the rest of the clear "dance" works. After all the various levels of energy, the audience was ready to watch this slow passage of time. It did not seem tedious to watch a woman blow up five balloons, frost her birthday cake or stick candles in it. The incredible visual imagery created by Lisa Vining created a context for the piece that was minimal (like the dance) and yet clear. A clock, a window, a bed are the stuff of life, of everyday existence and yet they also demaracate the passage of time. And as you watched the three vignettes play out, you felt as if time were being simultaneously sped up, slowed down and observed with almost a sense of detachment. And even as I sat there watching time go by, I never once looked at my watch!

To be multi-dimensional, physical, dramatic, playful and constantly original is a feat. It is refreshing, to find leopard print, bird calls, giant mirrors, and hanging clocks all incorporated elegantly into this wonderful wild mix of conscious and true dance/theater.


Chase Dance Theater continues at the Joyce SoHo through this evening, with curtain at 8PM. For more information and reservations, please call 212-334-7479.

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