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Flash Review 2, 5-5: "Poon"
Lavish! Lascivious!

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2003 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- "Poon," Jordana Che Toback's latest show, which premiered at PS 122 the weekend before last, is a delightfully lavish, sexy spectacle: twelve panting dancers, eight dreamy musicians, four ingenious costume designers, and one dynamic choreographer in a bathtub (not to mention both makeup and hair designers who gave the cast more glamor than downtown dance has seen in a decade)! After an hour of slithering gyrations, heavy breathing, and intimate gestures, the tension in the theater was palpable. "Poon" references a bawdy cabaret, or a high-end strip club, yet flips our position as voyeur on its head. The dancers wield the power of their sexuality boldly and brazenly. At times, it seemed like we were watching a private dance party. As the evening went on, it seemed it would be as fun, if not more, to get up and join the performers, rather than continuing to sit and watch. Indeed, the choreography began to suffer from too much of the same movement quality -- the raw sexuality, ironically, lost its punch after a while.

A notable exception was Toback's "Air" piece (one of several sections based on the four elements), which displayed the greatest range of the evening, both in choreographic structure and movement quality. Dancers stood absolutely still, arms outstretched, as if soaking up the sun. They dove deftly to the floor, the white under layers of their skirts fluttering like streamers behind them. They inhaled deeply, with satisfaction, as if smelling the skin of a lover, and came to rest in individual poses, frozen like alabaster statues. A similarly subtle, yet highly sensual quality was displayed by two belly dancers in the final "Earth" section. They wove seamlessly through the rest of the cast, moving twice as slowly, and proving mesmerizing to the eye.

Touches of comedy provided another welcome change throughout the piece. Bret Mantyk charmed the audience with a bottle of champagne (especially the woman he offered a glass to), before performing an impressive solo in the "jacking" style of '80s club dancing. Toback's lengthy monologue included cracks on George Bush and CNN, which were certainly appreciated by this particular critic. Nevertheless, the section itself was a bit of a non sequitur.

Perhaps the most important element in making the show feel cohesive was the incredible band. Under the direction of composer Tom Rossi, the musicians blended electronica with influences from India, Cuba, and Africa, producing an eclectic mix that was at times ethereal, at other times pulsating.

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