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Flash Review 1, 3-25: Fun House
Curran & Co. Just Wanna Have Fun

By Vanessa Manko
Copyright 2003 Vanessa Manko

NEW YORK -- The Sean Curran Company's spring season opened at the New Victory Theater this past weekend, for a run which continues through Sunday. The New Victory is the one theater on Broadway especially for kids and families. And what a perfect match of venue with performer, for Curran's works are filled with the kind of energetic, chaotic dancing that not only makes children squeal with delight, but, as it appeared on Friday evening, can also procure hearty smiles out of even the most cantankerous adult audience member. What a delight to watch Curran's work amidst an audience filled with children, eager and accepting of this choreographer's idiosyncratic, zany dances. The unabashed laughter and giggles that ensued throughout the evening added a new level to Curran's works. Being surrounded by children transfixed with the dance made this dance viewer see the fun in a run across the stage, a contraction, and even a simple leg extension. In short, watching the Sean Curran Company in this venue adds an entire other element of delight to Curran's already infectiously joyous works.

The program begins with "Abstract/Concrete," whose bright fluorescent costumes make the dancers look like highlighter markers that have escaped from a pencil case. With speed and precision, the dancers here appear to draw lines and scribbles across a black and white backdrop. The performers are athletic and strong; women are able to lift men with a felicity and ease that is enviable. Curran uses canons in this work, as the dancers emerge from one straight line into chaotic patterns, each performing a solo that moves horizontally across the stage in a mish-mash of quirky idiosyncratic movement. His choreography here is all angles -- clear and sharp. Add to this the bold choice of color for the costumes, and "Abstract/Concrete" has the same vividness and ebullient feel as a Keith Haring painting.

"Quadrabox Redux" is an intense game of patty-cake taken to a level of virtuosity presumably unimaginable in such a simple act. This piece reveals the influence that Curran's four years as a cast member of the Broadway show "Stomp" has had on his work. The four performers in this piece -- Curran, Marty Beller, Tigger Benford, and Martha Partridge -- sit on four boxes and proceed to execute a dizzying, rhythmically complicated game of clapping hands. Curran is rhythmically gifted and such a talent is nowhere more evident than in this impressive display of syncopation and timing.

But it was the premiere of "Amadinda Dances" that set a new tone to the evening. More subdued than what preceded it, "Amadinda Dances" is set to the amadinda -- a five-tone xylophone, from East Africa. Played by three musicians, the amadinda creates two simultaneous rhythms. The duality in the music is mirrored in the rest of the piece: in the costumes of black fronts and white backs and in the choreography. Movement patterns are balanced in clear simple shapes. As one set of dancers moves across the stage arms extended to the ceiling, the other group lowers its arms down to the floor, creating a series of linking, inverted and upright v's. Such simple, clear opposites create a complimentary visual design.

Perhaps it is "Metal Garden" that best exemplifies Curran's zany approach to dance -- an element of his personality that also makes him so accessible to children and adults alike. But accessible should not be taken as unimaginative. In fact, it's just the opposite here. Curran has an irony and sharpness of intellect that make his dances pithy and humorous. The dancers in "Metal Garden" don hipster pants and silver and gold glittery garb. Against a yellow backdrop the whole scene conjures up the '70s disco era. The performers have a swagger and macho-cool air about them as they trot en masse around the stage bobbing their heads up and down like the young John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever." "Metal Garden" is pure fun to watch and one can't help but smile along with Curran's silliness. As a performer, Curran himself tries to nurture this rather unconventional "garden" of sorts. As it grows out of control, he prances across the stage with water can in hand, then with a ladder, and finally with a plastic lawn animal for his garden's decor.

The choreographer's Irish roots and infectious humor are highly on display in the signature "Folk Dance for the Future" -- a fast-paced parody of the cultural phenomenon of Irish step dancing. This is uproariously funny, and, even more, a great display of energetic, demanding dance by the company -- Annie Boyer, Nora Brikman, Amy Brous, Martin Davis, Marisa Demos, Donna Scro Gentile, Tony Guglietti, Peter Kalivas, Kevin Scarpin, and Seth Williams. Curran, in particular, flails his feet around, making a mockery of the traditional Irish step dance -- all in good fun of course.

Sean Curran's dances all have a spark of magic in them. He's a whiz at making intelligent movement quite funny and he brings a refreshingly unassuming kind of quality to his work that makes it both good and accessible. In short, the lack of pretension in his dances makes for an easy appeal to children and adults, reminding us that dance can be, and often is, pure fun.

Sean Curran Company continues at the New Victory through Sunday. For more information, please visit the New Victory web site.

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