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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
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
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