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Flash Review 1, 1-23: Galvanized
Rub-a-dub-dub, SB Dance in a Tub

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2004 Gus Solomons jr

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NEW YORK -- By the time SB Dance's "The Bucket" (presented at Williamsburg Arts NeXus, January 16-18) ends, you can't imagine anything else three people could do with metal buckets, an oval galvanized tub, and about a ton of ping-pong balls. The conceiver of this fascinating work, Stephen Brown, and his two creating and performing collaborators, Christine Hasegawa and Liberty Valentine, who live and work in Salt Lake City, have created a weird, provocative stream of imagery that smudges the line between dance and theater.

Beneath Mattson McFarland's sky of little white ping-pong balls, hung above the dancing space on invisible strings like myriad stars, accompanied by a schmaltzy piano rendition of "Over the Rainbow," Hasegawa scoops up handfuls of balls strewn onstage and tosses them into a bucket. Brown and Valentine join her in a three-way tango, danced to an equally over-the-top version of "Begin the Beguine."

What follows is a series of unlikely but vividly constructed scenes, set to florid arrangements of old familiar songs like "Laura" and "The Warsaw Concerto" that explore ingenious manipulations of props and bodies. Stefanie Slade and Eugene Tachinni's lighting is sometimes too dim, but effective, given the lighting limitations of WAX.

Brown waltzes on with a stick across his shoulders, from one end of which hangs a white prom gown. The dress form turns out to be a bucket on a string, with which the dancers then by turns cover their heads and caper around like hooked fish on a line. Hasegawa ducks her head into a bucket on the floor and pumps her hips up and down in an action at once sexual and absurd. Brown, in a large white gown -- he's a muscular six-feet-plus -- stands on an upturned bucket, gesticulating madly.

In pure movement passages, the three demonstrate their considerable dancing skills, rolling, somersaulting, and lifting each other with rubbery facility to a samba. Valentine and Brown play a ball-rattling sonata, constantly stirring balls in a bucket they pass back and forth between them. To the theme from "The Third Man" the trio in the tub tussles in a topsy-turvy tangle of limbs worthy of Pilobolus. The richly provocative images tumble out with such visual cleverness that you don't look for meanings; you just enjoy their freshness and admire the imagination that spawned them.

The dancers ride the large oval tub like a bronco, as it rolls it across the stage. Later, in one of the most evocative images of the seventy-minute piece, Hasegawa's torso emerges from one side of the tub and Brown's bare legs from the other: a bizarre, hermaphroditic mermaid/man swimming in place. Then, Valentine swaddles the tub in a length of white tulle that looks like bubble-bath.

Earlier, Hasegawa runs desperately in place in her white gown in the tub. Later, when Valentine gets her turn, she sinks into the tub -- now full of ping-pong balls, which cascade over the sides into a ping-pong puddle. Finally, Valentine and Brown push Hasegawa in the tub a-sail on the sea of ping-pong balls toward the audience, as the lights fade to black. Brown, Hasegawa, and Valentine dance to a peculiar drum, and its wacky cadence will seduce you.

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