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Flash Review, 9-5: Bedtime Stories
Ruckert Plays with the Audience
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2003 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- Some might
accuse Dance Theater Workshop of being the de facto clubhouse for
downtown dance. True or not, in the case of Cie Felix Ruckert's
"Deluxe Joy Pilot," co-presented by DTW and the Joyce Theater, the
stage was literally transformed into a nightclub, peppered with
a handful of 'beds' -- cushioned, raised platforms where audience
members open to participating in the performance stationed themselves.
The rest of us stick-in-the-muds sat on translucent blue inflatable
chairs and ottomans (prone to leaks and squeaks), or on the floor,
forming a circle. Partitions hid the regular seating, which went
unused; white panels made a makeshift drop ceiling and contributed
to the cocoon-like atmosphere.
The action, seen September
3, began benignly enough, with a couple of dancers spinning on softly
bent legs, moving through martial artsy poses spaced by stillness.
Company members attended each bed-goer, clasping their hands, massaging
their necks, or manipulating their legs gently; each pair soon formed
a unit reminiscent of an Aztec stone sculpture (the one supposedly
used for human sacrifices), but with two heads. Occasionally, the
dancers chose one audience member to perform more elaborate exercises.
The audience participation
elements spoke of the dangers and joys of implicitly trusting strangers,
of intimacy, of building relationships, and of the essential decency
of people once a certain level of familiarity is reached. They also
revealed how we are always performing on some level, and how some
people get a kick out of it way more than others. One very Republican-looking
man was completely into it, even more so when his two male company
companions stripped off their shirts, donned wool caps, and swooped
their hands and faces within millimeters of the man's body. Whether
he moved toward them magnetically by reflex or on purpose is moot
-- he seemed to yearn for their contact. The high level of trust
and faith the audience participants placed on their partners consistently
As the score built in
pace and volume, the action grew increasingly fervent. The bed attendants
hovered over their prostrate charges, then appeared to assault them
orgiastically. Two trios centerstage wrestled with similar aggression.
The feverish scene gave way to whisperings and a single hot spotlight
focused on two men who pressed their mouths together. It was not
what it first seemed to be -- a kiss -- but the start of a violent
alpha dog competition; the men were blowing air into each other's
mouths to see who could last the longest.
Besides all the audience
interaction, "Deluxe Joy Pilot" contained plenty of dance. Berlin-based
Ruckert, who performed with Pina Bausch for a number of years, by
necessity has chosen good actors with varied, interesting looks.
The movement, which changed subtly throughout the piece, at times
brought to mind sequences built on contact improvisation -- weight
bearing by partners, groups collapsing (mostly gently) in heaps,
beginnings of gestures which flew out into space. Frequently, the
action looked borderline uncontrollable, especially when performed
by Matthieu Burner. The final segment led off with the riveting
Catherine Jodoin performing a solo of concentrated, elongated movement,
her fingertips trembling with focused energy. Despite their significant
size difference, Burner walked up her spine, starting an intense
power struggle that approached the psychopathic. They crashed about
the stage, somehow avoiding seriously bashing into any audience
members. The end came when stagehands brought out additional inflatable
ottomans and the dancers began to chat with audience members, cocktail
party style -- interaction on a more prosaic level.
Christian Meyer's impressive,
varied score accompanied the piece, and ranged from subdued sound
textures to film noir symphonic. Ruckert and Bruno Pocheron designed
the brilliant lighting, which emerged from behind us to make our
chairs look like big tacky gemstones.
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