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Review 2, 1-8: Movement Cocktail
Elkins Gets a Lock on Pop Culture
By Anne Zuerner
Copyright 2003 Anne Zuerner
NEW YORK -- After seeing
Doug Elkins's "The Look of Love" on the Doug Elkins Dance Company
Friday at the Joyce, I have hopes that the Hollywood Musical might
return, with Doug Elkins's wit and humor lighting up movie screens
across the country. I would love to see Wes Anderson and Elkins
pair their love for pop music and offbeat, intelligent humor in
a grand revisit to Hollywood escapism (and with the current political
climate, escapism may be making a comeback sooner than we think).
Choreographing to songs by Burt Bacharach and Daniel Johnston, Elkins
mixes up a tasty concoction of kitsch, irony, sophisticated dance
making, pop culture, and fun. He knows not to take himself too seriously,
a quality all too rare in the somber world of modern dance.
A series of pop-y vignettes,
"The Look of Love" examines a number of choreographic love cliches
that are so popular in musical theater choreography. These sappy
embraces, gentle caresses, and soaring lifts are reinvented in the
Elkins context. When a romantic dip is thrown next to a body wave
we not only see the dip as a comment on a movement cliche, we see
the dip reinvented. Elkins is not afraid to use the rich tools that
popular culture has given us to create a new language, filtered
through a more thoughtful voice. Elkins links duets (both same same
sex and opposite sex), a delightful men's trio ( "Fancy Free" reset
in Cancun, Spring Break 2003?), a sensual solo for the ravishing
Sharon Estacio, and group sections that twist and gyrate better
than any rave dance floor, yet with a softer, cooler touch. The
lighting, by Roma Flowers, and costumes (designer not credited)
filled the stage with paisley patterns, psychedelic sunbursts, and
flashy hues of orange, pink, and blue. The ambiance was truly florescent.
On a slightly less comical
but just as fun note, for "I Hear Mermaids Singing," a premiere
to Polynesian and South Pacific chants, hymns, and songs collected
by David Fanshawe, Elkins shifted his focus to seaside rituals.
With the sound of the ocean weaving in and out between songs and
the occasional gaze out to some sort of expanse, he created a dance
of celebration, moving toward a different kind of popular dance,
a place where the community comes together to dance in honor of
nature, instead of Hollywood Romance. The movement took on a more
traditional aesthetic, looking more like West African dance and
less like something you might see in a club, although it maintained
Elkins's signature hybrid style.
Despite my thorough
enjoyment, with two pieces following the vignette format, the stop
and go of so many scenes grew tiresome as the evening progressed.
The company, a slew of fresh young faces, is not as tight as an
ensemble as it could be. At times, the performers fell out of unison
so much that one questioned whether or not sections were in canon.
Yet the dancers' individual ability is such that in no time they
should become a well oiled machine. They are all masters of the
effortless cool and wit that is Elkins's style. And they manage
to let their personalities peek through while being drunk on Elkins's
Elkins kicked off the
Joyce's Altogether Different festival, which continues tonight with
Keely Garfield and runs through January 19. For more information,
please visit the Joyce web site.
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