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Flash Review, 8-28: Telling Tales
Frit & Frat on the Rat Race, "Gypsy Tales" for Kids, and More Stories from the Fringe

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr

NEW YORK -- Energetic and rambunctious in the way clean-cut California youths used to be depicted in movies, Frit & Frat Fuller's Kin Dance Company blew into town on the day after the Great Blackout of 2003, arriving with virtually no time to rehearse for their first performance at the Linhart Theatre on Lafayette Street, across from the Public Theater. The Fuller twins -- identical, except for Frat's afro -- direct the nine-dancer troupe. "The Daily Grind," their satirical take on the corporate rat race showed more spunk than craft or finesse. But it's still early in their careers.

Five short dance skits, lasting only about 40 minutes, depicted aspects of the quotidian routine. "Anxiety" had people entangled in thick cords unrolling themselves on the floor. Kenji Yamaguchi, in a business suit, leapt and dodged the ropes, which rippled like sonic waves -- or the silk fabric in Alvin Ailey's "Revelations." He's a slight dancer with huge flexibility and impressive tumbling skills, whose every move looked studied for perfection of line. Then the twins, on stilts, menaced the hapless junior exec.

"Subway" introduced more characters: a slithering, acrobatic female, who yakked into her cell phone, two other hyper-flexible women, and another man. After acrobatic shenanigans, tossing briefcases and diving into each others' arms, they all crammed themselves onto the single subway car bench. In "The Bored Meeting" (yes, the humor's that broad), four employees dozed behind boss Stephen Contreras's back, while he scribbled on a chalk board. They wound up ousting him and hijacking the meeting. "Pale Forest" was a jazzy interlude, the relevance of which to the narrative escaped me, but here, too athletic dancing prevailed.

"Seasoned Greetings" started with three male shoppers tussling over a shopping cart. Then, to the R&B ballad "(Hey, Girl), Things Are Gonna Get Easier" everyone danced a lyric-jazz finale, having shed their business suits for all-white dance clothes, as if to say "Oh, never mind!" The earnestly friendly, highly skilled dancers also included Jessica Peasant, Jessica Walker, Sara Segulin, Andre Zachery, and Gabriel Croom.

At the Washington Square United Methodist Church, Astoria-based Treaders in the Snow offered Japanese-American choreographer Naeko Shikano's "Seraphita," which translated a 19th-century story by Balzac, set in Norway, into a 30-minute dance. The androgynous title character becomes the object of affection of both Wilfrid and Minna, man and woman, who fall in love, respectively, with the female and male sides of Seraphita. But she/he loves only God and wants them to marry each other.

Glacially slowly, to Yasuhiro Kato's score of wailing voices, the dancers, Megumi Onishi (Minna) and Shikano (Wilfrid) approached a black-robed shade, whose sleeves spanned the stage. This shadow was Seraphita, danced by Mana Hashimoto, who happens to be totally sightless. The narrative remained clearer on the page than the stage, realized as it was with repetitious, unphysical movement, but it was fascinating to watch Hashimoto negotiate the space, using subtle threads taped to the floor to guide her.

From Glen Ridge, NJ, the New York Performing Artist Company brought "Gypsy Tales," an hour-long program more geared for kids than grownups, but entertaining nonetheless. The performers entered through the aisles to an Italian folk tune; then Samara, Reyna, and Andrea enacted three tales to narration by their dancing emcee Morgiana. (The program did not provide their last names.)

From Greece came a story about gypsy girl Aliki, who saves a Shepherd (Andrea) from losing her livestock to the Ogress (Morgiana) by hiding them in a cave, then tricking the Ogress to her death by fire. The second, from Spain, was a tragic story of three princesses: brave Zayda, beautiful Zorayda, and timid Zorahayda,who contrive in cahoots with their nanny Kadiga to elope with three handsome princes. But when push comes to shove, the timid one backs out of the escape and regrets it for the rest of her days. The final story, from Italy, entailed the search by Fabiano for three fools bigger than his fiancee Franceschina, and her parents, who get hysterical over the possibility of the death of their hypothetical baby, Bastianelo, who isn't yet even a twinkle in anyone's eye.

Morgiana's diction was crystal clear, and the four women danced and acted broadly with minimum physical exertion to get their narratives across; they succeeded. They've been doing arts-in-education shows for over a decade and are clearly pros at delivering entertainment at 8 a.m. to a cafetorium full of restless third-graders. I can't vouch for the authenticity of the dances that marked transitions and celebrations in the stories, but so what? The six-year-old boy sitting on my right and the reviewer sitting to his left were both entranced.

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