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Flash Review 1, 3-17: Fixated
Comforter Food for Thought from Loulaki & Co.

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2004 Gus Solomons jr

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NEW YORK -- Four downy white comforters define the territories of four strange characters at the beginning of "I wanted to say...but I said..." by the troupe called Amanda Loulaki and Short Mean Lady, presented in the City/Dans series by Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church (March 11-14). Downstage center sits a big TV, facing away from us, and two more at the altar end face us, showing an abstract video by dancer Jason Akira Somma.

Somma skates his feet on his comforter, sliding back and forth on the floor, then collapses and wrestles with it; Carolyn Hall lounges on hers, tying her long, lean frame into knots; dark-haired, fierce-looking Loulaki burrows underneath hers like a mole; and Rebecca Serrell lazily wraps herself up and takes a nap in hers.

Nameless but intense emotional states, articulated with vigorous, even violent movement inspire Greek/American choreographer Loulaki in this 50-minute exposition of eccentric behavior: obsessively repeated gestures, crashing falls to the ground, and headlong lurches through space. In one section the dancers repeatedly hurl themselves into the air, landing on a shin and rolling over their backs to cushion the impact. Loulaki and her cast have developed a fascinating vocabulary, rich with emotional resonance. They push on a thigh with the back of a hand, vibrating it like a loose gate; they skitter on their bottoms and yank themselves around with arms that slash like blades.

Somma sits on a folding chair, watching TV. He frantically wipes his temple with his arm, pulls at the skin on his cheeks, nods off, and jerks awake. Throughout the piece, Somma's character staggers, tipsily. Kittenish Serrell giggles, wiggles, tickles herself, and grunts suggestively, in delightfully wacky sexual disquiet. Hall pumps her head, turning herself into an excited goose. Loulaki strides sternly along the sanctuary perimeter then madly jogs in place.

Whether the movement generates the characters or vice versa in this hybrid of dance and theater, Loulaki creates palpable, if indefinable dramatic tension among them, and the juicy performing of her gutsy dancers keep us engaged. Sound design by Georgios Kontos impels the work with (unaccredited) selections of heavy metal music that help to modulate the energy. Retro-punk costumes by Nicolas Petrou reinforce the dancers' reckless abandon. And David Fritz's lighting highlights the odd architecture of the dance, built unconventionally upon an arc of energy that carries it from start to finish.

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