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Review 2, 10-20: Family Friendly
Home Movies from Everett
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2004 Gus Solomons jr
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NEW YORK -- Everett
Dance Theatre started in 1986 as a family business. Now, Dorothy
Jungels co-directs with son Aaron, who also handles video production
and sound editing and performs. One daughter, Therese Jungels, is
executive director, and another, Rachael, also performs, along with
Marvin Novogrodski, Sokeo Ros, and Bravell Garcia Smith, all denizens
of Providence, Rhode Island, Everett's home.
Weaving together spoken
dialogue, lively dancing, and home movies projected on several screens,
the troupe's newest collaboration "Home Movies," seen October 15
at Dance Theater Workshop, reveals insights about humanity through
the details of the fascinating, diverse autobiographies of its members:
the Jungels children, middle-class, highly eccentric New Englanders;
Novogrodski, a Polish Jew whose family survived Nazi Europe; Cambodian-American
Ros, whose parents escaped the Khmer Rouge to Thailand; and Garcia
Smith, a Caribbean-American "at-risk" youngster who attended high
school across the street from the Jungels's home.
Between and often during
the recitation of their stories, the performers dance complex mutual
lifting patterns and snatches of fox trot, hip-hop, or musical theater
jazz, with the enchanting innocence of untrained dancers. Rachael
is the exception, having trained seriously at the Juilliard School.
In fact, her ballet skill and glorious physical fluency are the
catalyst that elevates what from the others alone might otherwise
come off as amateur to a high level of concert dance.
Lanky, wiry Aaron deftly
navigates a bicycle around the projection screens that periodically
descend into the space, telling us about a 300-mile bike trek from
Rhode Island to Maine, upon which he and his older brother set out
at the tender ages of ten and twelve.
recalls finding himself without a roommate for his first few weeks
at college, which was the first time in his life he'd slept alone
in a room, relative-free. His newfound privacy inspired him to shed
his pajamas and spend all his dormitory time in the nude. Later,
he and Rachael simultaneously relive audition horror stories about
acting and dancing, respectively, in a delightful duet: he mugging;
Diminutive Ros resisted
joining a youth gang, but his deciding to be an artist strained
his relationship with his parents. The family of Garcia Smith --
who weighed in at birth at over eleven pounds -- was evicted from
its home, because his father's disability checks didn't arrive,
tied up in bureaucracy, during his final illness. Finally, he relates
poignantly that the family had to rely on a burial allowance from
the State to afford the funeral.
A skillfully edited
score of vocal selections by Louis Armstrong, as well as various
other uncredited pieces of jazz and Latin music and sound effects
accompanies the 70-minute piece. Michael Gianitti masters the tricky
task of lighting dancers without obscuring the projected film and
video. Typically, Everett's performers multi-task, manipulating
projectors between onstage stints and -- most likely -- furling
and unfurling the diagonally hung projection screens that transform
the space interestingly, and multiply the surfaces available for
The whole Everett team
works collaboratively in creating its remarkable pieces: for this
one, the performers each told their stories and even had to make
individual home movies. Then, the co-directors shape and structure
the material into intriguing, emotional episodes, liberally sprinkled
with movement passages, culled from hours of improvising in front
of a video camera.
Everett's works have
a charming homemade quality, combined with savvy theatricality,
pace, and clever invention. By the end -- despite the saccharin
ending: "Satchmo" Armstrong crooning "What a Wonderful World," as
the company walks towards us -- you've completely fallen in love
with this quaintly peculiar group. Getting to know their stories
makes them feel like part of your own family.
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