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Flash Review 1, 3-30: The Elephant in the Room
Off-kilter with Chris Yon

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2004 Gus Solomons jr

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NEW YORK -- A latter-day Buster Keaton if ever there were one, Chris Yon maintains a deadpan visage -- part bewildered, part determined -- throughout his new "Un Elephant Terrible, or Frank and Shelley Share a Brain," which runs through April 4 at La MaMa ETC. His slightly squat figure and a neck that never bends give him the look of a traveling salesman or a suburban accountant. That undancerly presence makes his rambunctious physicality and witty, well-crafted dances all the more appealing, even when you have no notion what they're about.

Don't look for clues to meanings in the title. Maybe Yon and Taryn Griggs, his equally stoic but suppler partner, are alter egos of Frank(enstein) and (Mary) Shelley. Griggs shares Yon's off-kilter sensibility. The two flap their arms like obsessive-compulsive traffic cops; they stick their thumbs in the air, as if to say, A-OK; then immediately slump dejectedly. They clunk around in intricate walking patterns, sometimes in eerily precise unison, sometimes in counterpoint. Yon understands his unique kinetic personality and plumbs it in what he calls a "hybrid of physical slapstick and esoteric post-modern dance."

Each new section of the 50-minute dance introduces new motifs and develops them into a web of constantly shifting gestural images: Yon strums an air guitar, Griggs backstrokes, sitting on her bottom; she covers one eye with her hand and peers out; he shifts his eyes subversively. They jab at the air, check their soles for doggie poop, puff their cheeks and press the air out with their hands. Yon vibrates outstretched arms up and down like an ibis in heat; Griggs vibrates her fanny back and forth like a bumble bee.

Periodically, Yon overlays his and Griggs's duet with one by Eleanor Bauer and Adam Carpenter. The latter pair interweaves with the former two in space, doing vaudevillian soft-shoe shuffles with great presentational flair, contrasting the understatement of Yon and Griggs. Bauer has a disarmingly innocent-looking face atop a tall, sturdy body; Carpenter is lanky and angular. Each time they spring into action, the "Bolero" theme backs them. The clever soundscape by Karinne Keithley also includes Fritz Kreisler, Khatchaturian, Glazunov, various rock bands, and the voice of former U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson.

As a youngster Yon worked with post-modern pioneer Rudy Perez, giving his minimalism a historical foundation. Perez's spare works epitomized "performance art" before the term was coined. To open the evening Yon performed a reconstruction of Perez's 1977 "Equinox-Run." Wearing coveralls and goggles and carrying a flashlight-torch, Yon inches his way along a diagonal path to the full length of the sturdy rope tied to his waist. The sparse movement and slow tempo summon a stream of images, from highway workman to soldier slogging through jungle to astronaut adrift in outer space.

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