featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
Body Wrappers;
New York Flash Review Sponsor
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Flash Review 2, 1-20: ADHD Dance
Playing Mix 'n' Match with Munisteri

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2004 Susan Yung

New! Sponsor a Flash!

NEW YORK -- I enjoyed Ben Munisteri Dance Projects' performance in the Altogether Different festival at the Joyce, seen January 14, and yet I came away feeling vaguely unsatisfied and a bit guilty, as if I'd just eaten a Twinkie. It stirred some curious sensations: I enjoyed the music, and I often felt the pieces should've gone on longer. (Or were incomplete.) Munisteri makes dances -- let's just say it, entertainment -- for people with limited attention spans and a taste for rhythm and melody, and in this regard, he stands in contrast to many of his peers.

Munisteri (who has contributed to this publication) regularly enlists some terrific dancers as guest artists. This year, David Leventhal (of Mark Morris Dance Group) and Larry Keigwin (of Broadway, Dendy Dance, and other companies) joined in. Of Munisteri's current company, Christine McMillan also dances with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Additional performers are Lisa Wheeler, Eric Sean Fogel, Danica Holoviak, Kyle Lange, Devon Fitchett, and Munisteri. Leventhal danced in the first half of the program, which began with "Muse of Fire," featuring suitably flame-hued costumes, and set to an excerpt from the film soundtrack "Run, Lola, Run," driven by a pulsing rhythm and breathing sounds. The four dancers performed 90-degree arabesques flat to the audience or upstage, jeted with their arms angled in 'V's, and shuffled across stage, their arms dangling from their shoulder sockets like a rag doll's. Munisteri packed the choreography pretty densely into the music, but his dancers still managed to look relaxed in it.

Keigwin joined Leventhal for "Smash Through to Sunlight" (1999), a duet dramatically lit by Kathy Kaufmann, company lighting designer and co-creator of this work. Keigwin moved sharply within a blue rectangle of light, repeatedly twisting his torso and whipping his arms about. Munisteri's mix and match movement phrases mirrored the choppy original score by Evren Celimli. Comical jumps with both legs bent alternated with beautiful, lush sequences featuring arms in opposition balancing the lower body. The two ended up lying on their sides, spinning in a sunburst of light shards, like clock hands counting time. Keigwin is a physically smart dancer who can always convert a phrase into a sensible equation. Leventhal lands amazingly softly from jumps, like a feather floating to earth; his levity contrasts with Munisteri's other more earthbound (but not ungraceful) dancers.

"Late-Night Sugar Flight" (1998) featured five dancers, including Munisteri, who seemed less comfortable onstage than the rest of the company. The music moved from a Donizetti soprano aria (and all its evocative baggage), to a Bollywood dance track by Tjinder Singh, to Satie. Some dance segments evoked Dunham floor-crossing exercises, and mixed with ballet and odd partnering phrases. "Earthly Perch" (2003) featured clever interactions between dancers and began with a tableau featuring Munisteri peeking out from behind a stage leg, leaning at an angle onto the stage. Later, two dancers supported a third by creating a sort of human armchair; Lisa Wheeler, held upside-down, lowered her legs slowly to the ground. The piece was set to excerpts of Benjamin Britten cello suites.

The evening's premiere, "Turbine Mines," was the most satisfying work. Munisteri set it for six dancers to an excerpt of Vangelis's soundtrack for "Blade Runner," so it began with Harrison Ford's voice intoning directions, while two pairs of dancers performed bursts of movement to spacey music. More flowing phrases followed -- skipping, jetes and sautes, and jazzy bent leg turns. (My inner technophile likes how Munisteri always uses proper balletic arm positions, no matter how wacky the mix.) The group lifted Wheeler across the stage, and caught her at the zenith of a frog-like jump. McMillan gave the ensemble its high-gloss sheen, her high extensions and finely pointed feet showing off each position to best advantage, backed up by an internal ferocity.

Munisteri makes clever choices when selecting music. His often breezy choreography takes on an instant gravitas when accompanied by opera or a film soundtrack. He may not reinvent the wheel, but as modern dance goes, it's plain old fun.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home