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Flash Review 2, 6-25: Playing and Played Out
Non sequiturs no Misnomer for Elam

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2002 Chris Dohse

NEW YORK -- Sociologist Johan Huizinga, in his book "Homo Ludens," wrote that dance is "the purest and most perfect form of play that exists." Chris Elam gets this. His dances for Misnomer Dance Theater, seen Friday at Joyce Soho, are uniformly overlong and suffer somewhat from similarity. But they feature a simian, rambunctious, transformational playfulness. Their awkward, improbable partnering sometimes looks like the individuals involved are literally trying to crawl inside each other's skin, contorting each other's faces in frustration. Or maybe a group of them are trying to cram themselves into a Volkswagen. For these weanlings, a crooked leg raised doggy style might indicate desire. Partners cling to each other in a ludic Kama Sutra.

Elam, who is more impossibly elongated than an El Greco Christ, frequently looks like a praying mantis or a goofy Hanuman. In his solo, "Cast-Iron Crutches," he truncates his vocabulary to great effect. Contorted and autistic, his agonized limbs struggle within their own ranges of movement, perhaps illuminating disability or hatching from an egg. The sudden play of life-sized shadow puppet, created by designer Gregg Carville, is a fine trompe l'oeil.

When Elam places his movement against instrumental soundscapes, its context becomes pleasant non sequitur wherein the viewers can add meaning as they wish or simply enjoy the knotted 3D Twister shenanigans. His unfortunate choices of pop music, however, create weird associations and seem to demand narrative. Leonard Cohen and Judy Collins? "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"?

Also, eight dances in one sitting are too many to eat. It begins to feel like we're watching the same duet over and over again, with different costumes and to different music with different levels of comedy. Relieving the monotony, a Pilobolesque quartet, "Misnomer," defines Elam's physicality on a chamber scale and the finale for five, "Inabable," takes it into the realm of Whoville on Christmas morning.

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