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Review 2, 1-23: 'Off' is ON
Into the Way-back and Way-out Machine with Danceoff
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2004 Maura Nguyen Donohue
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NEW YORK -- Once again,
Katie Workum and Terry Dean Bartlett managed to compile a collection
of short and sweet gems for Danceoff!, seen in its latest edition
January 15 at Symphony Space's Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater. Hell,
it was worth the trip just to see Bartlett shake his thing in a
1985 video choreographed by Miss Kate (his hometown dance teacher)
and its subsequent historical recreation by Bartlett, Workum and
Larry Keigwin's "5,6,7,8"
introduces us to a cast of bizarre auditionees. A full-length black
puffy jacket clad dancer does Pilates, an exuberant woman overdoes
her pranayamas and a jazzercise queen in fluorescent yellow practices
her leaps to the floor with deadly earnest before Nicole Wolcott
and Keigwin rush them and four volunteers from the audience through
While the light fare
and comedy is the main pull of Danceoff!, I am a fan of the program
because I'm also guaranteed of some quality dancing as well. Sometimes
I just want to see a beautiful body in motion, a tuned and technical
splash. For "Once I was in a Beauty Contest, But My Strap Broke,"
Monica Bill Barnes delivers with sparks flying. She rushes in dropping
her bouquet and shifts through dense packs of movement broken up
only by fleeting moments of suspension.
Workum and Bartlett
offer "Love and Bubblegum (an interlude)," during which they stuff
one another's mouths with an endless stash of gum sticks and throw
themselves together with lustful abandon. Garrett plays a woman
performing a duet without a partner in "Cha Cha Championship."
Jennifer Nugent is a
quivering mess of pelvic gyrations responding with ecstatic moans
to Paul Matteson's slightest shift. He takes her down and up again
with the illusion of ease masked by studied awkwardness that their
Dorfman/Race pedigree implies. Nugent is calm, trusting and uncomplaining
with each of their drops to the floor. In the face of Matteson's
growing fatigue and as she dangles easily with a sweet, open gaze
I find myself swearing it is a study in Zen babies. Or maybe I just
need to relinquish milk truck duties and get out more often.
I don't know what it
is; that the proper words elude me when it comes to describing Karinne
Keithley's work drives me nuts. Every time. But they do. There's
something magical, thoroughly musical and dreamlike about everything
I've seen her do since before she'd even graduated from college.
I'm repeatedly inspired and satisfied by her compositions, whether
they're song, dance, or in an occasional Flash Review, which tend
to sneak up on me with quiet sophistication. Her "Glaz-go-Paso"
is no exception. It is post-modern folk and frolic, accumulating
morsels of choreography slowly together into one breathtaking burst.
I've been a fan of LAVA,
but when set against the artistic partnering of Workum & Bartlett
and Nugent & Matteson I find the overly presentational style tedious.
How many times do I need to see the troupe's performers portray
female strength so stoically before it becomes dry and unoriginal?
Only once the cheesy synth-pop music ends and we hear Sara East
Johnson apologizing to Molly Chanoff and Eugenia Chiappe for wearing
ponytails this time and possibly endangering the complicated counterbalance
sequence are we allowed a bit of drama. As Johnson talks through
the shifts, we get to observe a "real" moment which makes for compelling
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