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Flash Review 1, 6-19: "Loose Lips," Tight Hips
Neumann Hits His Target at the Whitney

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2002 Maura Nguyen Donohue

NEW YORK -- Last Wednesday, Boo Froebel, producer for Performance on 42nd St. at the Whitney Museum, concluded her hip, sharp "Loose Lips" series by presenting a favorite modern day sharp shooter, David Neumann. It seems entirely appropriate to view Neumann at the Whitney, as I often think of his work as deeply American. "Loose Lips" was a series of four events featuring artists who play with the idea and form of narrative.

Neumann presented "Sentence," a work-in-progress to premiere at PS 122 next February, and "Oyinbo," a work that premiered at PS 122. "Sentence" is loosely based on Donald Barthelme's Joycean prose/poem (an eight-page sentence.) In and around the Whitney's atrium, "Sentence" became in moments a wild and wily romp through interactive pedestrian performance and at other times clever, well executed site-specific choreography. Andrew Dinwiddie's security guard is calmly surrounded by track suit clad dancers. We gaze beyond the subtle shifts of Erin Wilson and Neumann to see a pink, velour clad Orlando Pabatoy riding his bicycle. Adrienne Truscott leads a group of tourists outside, a few other people stop to look through the glass at us and we begin to see narratives in every passerby.

Neumann weaves together fleeting dances, momentary encounters and brief passages of spoken word written by Will Eno to unravel his ephemeral world. Here nothing fits together quite naturally and nothing ends finite. Truscott leads her group into the atrium, discovering the dance already in progress. Her performance is fully successful as she bridges the outer and inner worlds with poetic commentary on the action of the dancers. She is both cliched cruise director and thoughtful connoisseur as she scolds her uninterested, exiting wards. Here we witness a beautiful moment of performance supported wittily with a self-conscious commentary on itself.

The second half of the program included the engrossing "Oyinbo." Previously, Neumann's work was most engaging when he was dancing in it. With "Oyinbo" he achieved an ensemble work full of characters rich beyond just his singular charm. I missed it when it premiered so I can't say comparatively whether this work has deepened with age but it felt settled, familiar and powerfully refined. It wasn't entirely the original cast performing last week so I can't chalk it up to just good casting, though both Charlotte Griffin and Karinne Keithley were exquisite in their brief featured moments. The work maintains a kind of integrity throughout that I wasn't that familiar with in most of Neumann's other group work. Stacey Dawson provided her special brand of lip-synched performance and Steven Rishard provided a solid dose of red-blooded maleness much like his terrific performance as the tour bus driver in Dawson's "Best Western." Ruthie Epstein, Tom O'Connor, Lisa Walter and Erin Wilson rounded out the solid assembly.

Maura Nguyen Donohue is a New York City based choreographer and writer. Please visit her web site for more info.

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