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Flash 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.

Novogrodski hilariously 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; she pirouetting.

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 projection.

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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