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Flash Review 2, 9-9: I'll take a cosmo with that contraction
Dancenow/NYC Brings it to the (Joe's) Pub Crowd
By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2003 Darrah Carr
NEW YORK -- A woman
bereft of love, a tap dancer, a raunchy Dorothy, an a capella singer
-- all these and more took to the tiny stage at Joe's Pub Thursday
for a cabaret-style event that marked the opening of the ninth annual
Dancenow/NYC festival. As food, drink, and conversation flowed between
pieces, the evening was part performance and part party, achieving
the organizers' admirable goal of building greater audiences for
modern dance by making programs fun, accessible, and diverse. For
nearly a decade, Dancenow artistic directors Robin Staff and Tamara
Greenfield have brought dance to communities across the city, adding
both traditional and site-specific venues each year. In addition
to the new downtown cabaret setting at Joe's Pub, the festival stretches
to Washington Heights this year with a performance at Highbridge
Park. Staff and Greenfield have continued their signature programming
style throughout the festival, mixing established and emerging choreographers
to create fresh, eclectic performances. Thursday's cabaret featured
everyone from the well-known Gus Solomons jr (a contributor to this
publication) and Carmen de Lavallade of Paradigm, in a riveting
duet choreographed by Dwight Rhoden, to relative newcomers Anthony
Rodriquez and Jimena Paz, performing ambitious works of their own.
Among the delights in
a program entitled "Treats, Treasures, Little Pleasures," was Wallie
Wolfgruber's "Apres L'amour," a wistful solo in which Wolfgruber
balanced on her coccyx, arms and legs waving slowly, eyes closed,
as if remembering a tender embrace. Monica Bill Barnes recalled
happier shades of love in "Once I was in a Beauty Contest, but My
Strap Broke," bobbing and weaving with playful abandon to Beatles
songs. Paul Taylor veteran Mary Cochran, in her return to the New
York stage, gave an electrifying portrayal of performance artist
Valeska Gert in Sara Hook's "Valeska's Vitriol." Conjuring Gert's
obsession with the grotesque, Cochran drank and spat out an audience
member's wine and pulled another unsuspecting gentleman on stage
to fondle her. Jimena Paz offered an excerpt of "Eau de Toilette,"
a new work that began strong, but then unraveled halfway through.
Perhaps the compositional structure is more clear when the piece
is seen in context.
The program also included
a tightly structured duet by Romy Reading and an excellent rendition
of three sections of Meredith Monk's "Songs from the Hill" by Janis
Brenner. Ying-Ying Shiau mesmerized in an excerpt from Zvi Gotheiner's
"Chairs," and tapper Barry Blumenfeld ended the program on an upbeat
note. Hosts Keely Garfield and Lawrence Goldhuber presided over
the evening with witty clips reminiscent of the smashing job they
did emceeing last year's Bessie Awards.
Although the eight minutes
allotted to each artist is not enough time to make a definitive
assessment of the overall quality of the work, the Dancenow/NYC
festival provides definition in other ways. Not only does it herald
the beginning of New York City's Fall dance season, but, more importantly,
as the packed, enthusiastic audience at Joe's Pub proved, the festival
defines the modern dance community as a vital, brewing force in
the city's arts scene.
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