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Flash Review 2, 3-12: 'Byrd-lesque'
A Decade of Byrd: What it is! (And what it isn't)
By Angela Jones
Copyright 2002 Angela Jones
NEW YORK -- I find it endlessly fascinating
how perspective changes over time. It may seem obvious that one's experiences
shape how one views work, but it is interesting to note specifically in what way.
Having just returned from Berlin, I found Donald Byrd's retrospective of his last
ten years of work, "Byrd-lesque," seen Saturday at the New Victory Theater, shockingly
American -- complete with cheese, flash, high kicks, corny jokes, lots of unbound
energy, and even some hackneyed magic tricks thrown in for further entertainment
value. In the program notes, Byrd writes: "Byrd-lesque might be thought of as
self-examination, a little therapeutic perhaps. As I re-encounter the past, I
may gain some insight and understanding into why I made the choices I have made."
Seeing his work with this understanding in the background made me also realize
how I have changed my own viewing over the last ten years.
What I found interesting was that
although Byrd's statements indicate some kind of evolution in his work, I must
profess that I saw little difference between the pieces. The first two consisted
of raw virtuosic movement, dramatic music, and dancers dressed in black. The second
two pieces were more theatrical in that they included shtick, silly costumes,
over-the-top dramatic faces, and more elements of traditional partner dancing.
However, the basic choreography relied totally on the energy and technique of
the dancers to pull off perfect turns, 6 o'clock penchees and very fast jumping
sequences. I found myself starting to count the number of kicks in a given piece.
I also found myself eavesdropping on the 8-year-olds next to me. "I am sooo bored,"
announced one, the companion replying, "Me too -- when is this over?" Here these
dancers were taking years of training and unflagging energy and executing very
difficult work, and it still couldn't even seem to excite a child 5 feet away.
The reason being that it was essentially the same energy, same style simply regurgitated
over and over. No pauses, no tender moments, just unrelenting dance Olympics.
However, there was something endearing
about this extravaganza, despite all of the above, that I can only see more now
that I have been away from the U.S. for a while. The German folks who are visiting
me came with me to see the show and they loved it. They loved the unapologetic
flare. It made me realize how much I did miss seeing that go-for-broke physicality,
that desire to be more entertaining than intellectual, and that sense of presentational
magic even though we all know it is an illusion. It really was entertaining, balls-out
dancing. Period. I could relish what it was when I stopped thinking about what
it wasn't. And I was then able to appreciate it in the end (with even less jaded
eyes than those of a child).
Donald Byrd/The Group continues at
the New Victory Theater through Sunday. For show times and other information,
please visit the New Victory
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