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Flash Review 2, 10-1: "Ripped"
Donohue & Co. Open P.S. Dance Season with a Wallop of Wasabi

By Tom Patrick
Copyright 2002 Tom Patrick

NEW YORK -- A great deal of toying could be found Sunday eve at P.S.122, concluding the first of two weekends for Maura Donohue and In Mixed Company in the very topical "Rip It Open." The bottle of icy Asahi draft that Brian Nishii handed me as I took my seat (as he played the cheerful barker, affably and in Japanese) would pretty much be the last reassurance I'd get. "Rip It Open" did so indeed, splattering out loud the unflattering, exposing the posing on many fronts of women's issues, Asian stereotyping, piety and male acceptance.

The house was set up as two parallel banks of seats flanking a central alley for the performers, allowing them a broad sweep of space and us the sometimes-uncomfortable sight of our fellows across the way as Ms. Donohue's acidic assemblages put us in our places; only a mirror might have been more disturbing, as layers of eroticism and aggression were plumbed, never really leading where we thought and never coddling us into comfy-performance head. Through teasing turns and searing confrontation, "Rip It Open" pops open our blinders to everyday racism and women's strength -- be they the presumptions of timidity in Asian women or a man's inexplicable aggressions toward his own countrymen.

The compact concert, a round hour, unfolded as a tightly interlocking puzzle: a stream of video images both real-time and montaged, peripheral painting, visceral dancing, and highly evocative text and musical passages. Events all flew along, barely giving us time to digest something before tipping us into another direction. It was a barrage of imagery and social commentary, as well as personal anecdote and some real soul-baring. Ms. Donohue's opening work on the heavy Everlast bag leaves no doubt about her strength of mind and body, by turns seething with contempt or heaving with bungee'd abandon in a lusty digression from confession. Make no mistake, she WILL get all up in your face. Ms. Donohue's rawness and mastery were matched blow-for-blow by that of her talented co-performers Peggy Cheng, Nancy Ellis, and Mr. Nishii. As they time-traveled us to high school, strip clubs, inner reveries and street corners, the balance of dance and drama was even and real, with dancing connected to motive and never empty frou-frou and drama that was always moving and linked to the greater soundscape.

Dance insiders who like their dancing as a total event, not devoid of strong social commentary, should plan on catching this pungent mouthful of wasabi. "Rip It Open" ripped open the new season at P.S. 122 and continues this week too, Wednesday through Sunday at 8:30 p.m.


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