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Review 3, 10-8: Making "Whoopee"
Salisbury Spins Stories of the Dark
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2002 Chris Dohse
NEW YORK -- Dana Salisbury's"Whoopee
in the Dark," seen last week at University Settlement, is a series
of seven solos with a short trio that acts as a denouement. Salisbury
doesn't dance in the piece, but it evidences her acute consciousness,
her keen multi-disciplinary attention to detail. As in one of the
solos, "Dog Story," wherein the sound of a plastic ball farting,
squealing and gasping, caught by Karrie Wood's weight against the
floor, becomes Wood's partner. And her punching bag: the air escapes
as the ball deflates, pinned under her.
There is a strong poetic
storytelling aspect to the work, as Salisbury is heard narrating
odd milestones in her life to initiate entrances -- moments of realization
during which perhaps she felt connected to the beyond. The dances
evolve inexorably, like sand through an hourglass, allowing stasis,
with gestural specificity and aural design (recordings of trombonist
Brian Bender and soprano Karen Smith Emerson). Inscrutable actions
are propelled by the mindful presence of the dancers: Wood, Christine
Bodwitch and Paul Langland.
Each solo's focus balances
between two qualities. Sometimes the performers dance with a rich,
magnified awareness of their present moment and of the subtlety
of their experience, which is absorbing. Sometimes though they get
lost, absorbed into their interiority, which is more interesting
to do than to watch and which can simultaneously look familiar and
self-indulgent. These moments linger longer than necessary. Intensity
and self-revelatory clarity, like anything else, can become monotonous.
Langland, as "Storyteller,"
winces through an urgent tongueless Babelogue, utterly committed
to his character and variations of fractured ululation. Wood, a
s"Camel," stutters on hinged legs, gamine and awkward. Bodwitch
turns the 1970s"vulvic space" of Carolee Schneeman's "Interior Scroll"
into a prize fight in "Red Cord." The centerpiece of the evening,
Langland's "Self-Erasure," is partly a tenacious, inexplicably connected,
sometimes Chaplinesque exploration of props.
Similarities might be
drawn to Deborah Hay's landscapes of the ordinary. The separate
vignettes of "Whoopee in the Dark" become aspects of a single consciousness
trying to look unflinchingly at her surroundings. The final tale
of a disfigured woman on a subway platform contains the kind of
brutal images and hesitant compassion that are the fabric of life.
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