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Flash Review 2, 6-25: Variety Show
Bartlett, Workum & Co. Dance Off with Joe

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2003 Maura Nguyen Donohue

NEW YORK -- Worry not, seekers of that perfect cocktail of comedy and full-throttle artistry. Though the Lisa LeAnn & Terry Dean put on a Danceshow series came to an end when Lisa LeAnn Dalton became a national champion bareback bronco rider and moved to Texas, the always loveable Katie Workum has jumped in to save the day for dance. Terry Dean Bartlett and Workum's new cabaret-style modern dance series Dance Off! kicked off at Joe's Pub @ the Public Theater this past Sunday with a proper bang.

The program opened with excerpts from Bessie and two-time Obie award-winning composer Cynthia Hopkins's newest operetta, "Accidental Nostalgia." Hopkins appeared in an asymmetrical skirt and jacket with one foot in a tap shoe and the other in a cowboy boot. Just enough of the tragi-comic tale of amnesia and buried memories was revealed to wet our appetite for its premiere next year at PS 122.

Bartlett's "9 to 5" was a grinding examination of a time-clock hell. Bartlett, clad in dark pants, shirt and tie fell and fell, slamming onto the hard floor with jarring aggression. Almost as fascinating was watching the reactions of Elizabeth Streb, his director and mentor of the past 6 years. I thought perhaps it was the intimate proximity to the dancer -- I was right next to the small raised stage -- that had me audibly gasping, but when I saw Streb, queen of the crash and fall, cringe I knew this was real. And it was hot. I still don't know how Bartlett managed to rise after falling straight back, unyielding and using his head to break the fall.

Workum & Leigh Garrett presented "Dance Makers," a hilarious spoof of an interview with a couple of flighty modern dance choreographers. The piece opened with a brilliant bit of song about liking choreography because then "people listen to me." Garrett was a perfectly understated and incompetent sidekick, complete with enormous round eyeglasses, to Workum's pretentious baby blue track suit wearing artiste. Garrett also presented a sweeping duet with a spotlight. The dance, to Duke Ellington, was evocative, full of reaching and flowing movement.

Cintia Chamecki's "Quit Nem Jilo" started a little awkwardly as the trio of dancers, Chamecki, Jenai Cutcher, and Michelle Dorrance shifted and acted at being bothered by mosquitos but it rapidly slid, hit and banged its way into a ripping rhythm tap number. Chamecki took the musical role of the tap dancer a step further by playing her own metal clad knees as percussive instruments.

Paul Matteson, a Bessie Award-winning dancer with Terry Creach, David Dorfman & Chamecki Lerner, began by shaking in the doorway before mixing his sumptuous skills as a dancer with extremely spastic choreography, essentially falling into a seizure at moments. His "Face Value" played like a possible dancer's psychological autobiography, chock-full of self-abuse and hypochondria mixed with impressive abandon.

Burlesque goddess Julie Atlas Muz brought "Kali: Goddess of Destruction" to a grateful audience. Muz appeared in electric blue wig, blue sequined bikini, long golden nails, Cham headdress and, most excitingly, a long, long pointed tongue. It's pure exotica straight out of Martin Denny's lounge with just enough nudge-nudge wink-wink.

"Rainbow Down," choreographed by David Parker and performed by Parker and Jeffrey Kazin of The Bang Group, was the perfect finale for the hot and hip pageant of aesthetics and styles that crossed the tiny stage at the pub. Parker's work brings together tap, ballet, modern and partnering work straight out of the best competitive ice dancing you could imagine with complete aplomb. Parker and Kazin, always the perfect vessel for Parker's vocabulary, managed to dance with full extension, most notable because they didn't hit each other, while skipping down the yellow brick road into a nirvana of syrupy Hollywood songs.

Dancer, choreographer, and writer Maura Nguyen Donohue is the artistic director of Maura Nguyen Donohue/In Mixed Company. For more information on the company, please click here.

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