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Flash Review, 10-3: Leave Juvenalia at Home
A Diluted Slant Rant on Cultural Tourism

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2002 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- In its latest evening-length work, "Wa Zu," which ran at La Mama for the past three weekends, Slant Performance Group took the audience on a rollicking journey from New York City to a "traditional, indigenous" place. Loosely based on the trio's travels to the Yunnan Province of China in June of 2001 (made possible by a grant from Dance Theater Workshop's Suitcase Fund), the work explores the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of cultural tourism. The most powerful image was Slant's reenactment of the Wa Zu hair dance, a mesmerizing swinging of one's locks in a ritual dance of the hunt.

Other scenes were highly satirical, such as Slant's performance of performance. Banging on a large drum, the emcee shouted, "Come see the spectacle, the culture, the show. These are traditional, indigenous dances, learned at a traditional indigenous academy. We are the most traditional, most indigenous, most earthy people on earth." As a monkey and a dragon squared off in the center, the emcee enjoined the audience to purchase the how-to video in the lobby, and announced that the dancers also do parties. The scene lost its punch, however, when he started repeating himself. Indeed, at various points throughout the work, what began as an interesting scene felt diluted by the end. The evening would have been twice as provocative had it been half as long.

Several moments had the added burden of completely juvenile humor. The diarrhea dance, for example, was performed with pants around the ankles to a rousing chorus of "Don't drink the water in a foreign land." About halfway through, when the performers started rolling on the floor and wrapping themselves in toilet paper, one had the uncomfortable feeling that they found themselves to be funnier than the audience did. Nevertheless, the trio remained strongly committed to the performance throughout the evening. Richard Ebihara, Wayland Quintero, and Perry Yung are each talented, multi-faceted performers, who slip deftly between dancing, acting, singing, and playing music.

 

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