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Flash Review 1, 11-5: Rolphing Boredom
Dean Moss's Strange Kinetic Poem

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2002 Gus Solomons jr

NEW YORK -- In "The Board Dance," an excerpt from his 2001 "american deluxe," Dean Moss stands between a video projector and the altar wall of St. Mark's Church, where Japanese martial arts films, old westerns, and he himself rehearsing this same dance are projected. Moss manipulates a five-by-three foot board that's Mylar-mirrored on one side and reflective white on the other. The prop manipulation recalls the work of his mentor David Gordon, in whose Pick Up Company Moss performed for ten years. The projections change scale and reflections flash on the side walls, as he swirls the board, balances it on a corner, lies on top of it, under it, hikes it overhead and lets the top edge flip down to the floor. His deft execution of the task is intriguing, enhanced by the changing film backdrop against which it is performed. It's a clever, straightforward, minimalist essay, clearly designed and crisply done.

The impression of Moss's new "supplement" for five performers is far more complex, though it, too, is constructed from simple tasks and moves designed by Moss and his fine cast. The New Yorker blurb for the performance says, "The story is, Kacie goes to a Rolfer." Unfortunately, the program doesn't give you that clue, and the piece hasn't a linear narrative. If you've read the blurb, you can relate many of the images that cram "supplement" to the practice of Rolfing. For the uninitiated, Rolfing, developed in the mid-twentieth century by Ida Rolf, is a technique of excruciatingly deep manipulation of the fascia that can have life-altering impact on your posture as well as your psychological and physical health.

Kacie Chang in a yellow cocktail dress and red beads poses, statuesque, between translucent screens, on which are projected photographs -- it's hard to read what they are -- and video in extreme close-up of a woman being Rolfed. Elegant lighting by David Fritz focuses beams on a Mylar carpet, casting shimmering reflections on the ceiling and articulates the space without obscuring the projections.

After Chang lingers awhile, others enter at the periphery of the space: Marcelo Coutinho sports a shirt with a square cutout where the front pocket should be and an elaborate applique in the back. Kathryn Sanders wears a back-less denim coatdress. Slight Jason Marchant is swimming in a baggy blue shirt. Hiromi Naruse is an angel in a beige mini-dress with a single wing protruding from her upper back. Gia Grosso's imaginative costumes are subtly surreal.

The dancers engage in small talk; Naruse strews photocopies of their faces on the floor and keeps gathering and dropping a stack of yoga blocks. She reclines precariously on a "bed" of the blocks, singing in Japanese. Coutinho digs into his abdomen, massaging his psoas -- a powerful core strength muscle and prime target of Rolfing -- and grunting. The others ask, "are you all right?" Then Marchant, Sanders, and Chang disrobe and probe their own bellies. Fragments of salsa music by Marc Ribot punctuate the action.

In The New Yorker, Moss is also quoted, "I touch boredom. I want to see how close I can come to that death and still keep the viewer involved." When the performers go ape, running in circles and ululating, bouncing like jumping jacks, overturning chairs, you do stay involved with their oddball actions, even though you've lost the thread of their intention. Moss is often labeled as a "smart" choreographer, which is usually critic-speak for "I had no idea what it was about, but it was intelligently structured."

When finally the performers lie motionless in the fading light, you realize Moss is leaving it to you to figure out what his strange kinetic poem is really about. Dean Moss continues tonight and Thursday through Saturday, at 8:30 p.m., and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church.

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