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Flash 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 Leigh Garrett.

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 a routine.

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 theater.

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