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Flash Review 1, 10-21: Dancealloverthemap
Back to School with Terry Dean & Katie & Charges

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2005 Maura Nguyen Donohue

NEW YORK -- From "Danceshow" to "Dancerecital" to "Danceoff!" I've followed the various incarnations of Terry Dean Bartlett's fun for all dance showcases around town. Danceoff! is NYC's only full-contact, non-competitive, not-really-a dance competition, presented with Katie Workum. Now in the house at PS 122, where I caught it last week, this homemade revue continues to serve as a surefire place to catch solid work from the known and soon-to-be-known.

David Neumann and Andrew Dinwiddie opened the program with a work without a title, a delightfully oblique choice that if not intentionally misdirecting seemed at least intentionally mysterious. Even "Untitled" is a title, right? Here, nothing meant -- well, it meant something. We see Neumann and Dinwiddie enter in worklights and step into pieces of stretchy, white fabric which are then held taut by anchoring bricks. The informality is curtailed by a blackout and the work proper begins with the two men standing on platforms so that the fabric creates an image of long white skirts. Or perhaps, sails stretching and billowing above the sea. The two men's arms and fingers ripple like waves. A particularly lovely lighting cue from Katrina Maurer full of blues and pinks transports them out of the theater and into a faraway place where these two creatures are suddenly floating, slowly, meditatively in a life aquatic.

Tehreema Mitha's "Khabt Savaar Hua" was a simplistic attempt at using traditional Indian dance vocabulary to make a comical dance about a woman trying to read while a fly bothers her. The Bharatanatyam-inspired eye movements and hand gestures offered potentially amusing moments but the overall execution was uninspired and quite unsophisticated. Mitha appeared again later in the program with another solo, "Wa'l," which proved equally tedious in its melodramatic angst.

Bartlett and Workum both provided humorous fare. With Fabio Tavares da Silva, Skyler Sullian and Kevin Lindsay, Bartlett restaged OK Go's "A Million Ways" video. The lighthearted interlude was fun but didn't seem to offer more than what Trish Sie choreographed for the band in the video. Workum's "George Carlin is my Hero" was a choreographic take on the infamous "Aristocrats" joke. (If you don't know what I'm talking about -- and if you have a strong stomach -- go to "The Aristocrats" film website, click on "Listen to 'The Sophisticates,'" and then on "George Carlin.") The tale of an artistic director's attempt to secure funding for a convoluted and obscene dance work (complete with Judith Jamison pirouetting in a dead harp seal skin) cleverly plays itself out on the many layers of tee-shirts worn by Sarah Eaves, Adele Nickel, Andrea Whitfill, Skyler Sullivan, Will Rawls, Workum, Felicia Ballos and Jocylin Tobias.

Two excellent solos flashed by in between the goofy bits. Regular Danceoff contributor Leigh Garrett performed a deliciously sensual encounter with light in a fleeting dance based around a single tight spotlight in "At First Sight." Nicholas Leichter's "O Fortuna" is a tight hot dance, performed here by a seething Daniel Clifton. Grand music, undulating movements and laser sharp performance make for a perfect union. Hopefully the full collaboration between Leichter and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, set to premiere February 25 of next year, will equal the intensity and execution of this incredible opening solo.

The program included two additional excerpts of longer works, from Philadelphia-based Pig Iron Theater Company and recent Bessie-winner Christopher Williams. I find excerpts generally hard to respond to critically since they generally lack context and are only partial entities. However, Dito Van Reigersberg's performance of an excerpt from Pig Iron Theater's "Poet in New York" was thoroughly compelling as a bit of theatrical virtuosity. Reigersberg depicts an evening when poet Federico Garcia Lorca visited New York. He switches easily between characters and, under the adroit direction of Dan Rothenberg, creates quick and rich tapestries of interaction. A dance sequence manipulates movement to further the narrative in sly and enchanting ways, catching us up in the throes of a life rushing past. The entire solo piece will be performed again in New York this December. Don't miss it. Pig Iron's got something for even the most theater-phobic dance insider. I'd also want to see Williams's "Mandragora Vulgaris" in its entirety, but mainly because I found it hard to engage with the particular extraction presented. There was clearly much more to the work than the bit of grunting and dancing and the very brief bit of puppetry that ensued.

Julian Barnett closed the program with "Showtime," a searing duet with Aaron Walter. I recently began a collaborative project with Barnett. He and I will be working along with six other choreographers as part of an exchange between NYC and Hong Kong artists. He's also appearing as a guest in a different collaboration I'm working on. So though the following is far from unbiased, this Danceoff appearance was the first time I'd actually seen Barnett's work in performance. The duet has an edgy kind of late-night buzz, with a constant undercurrent of violence; perhaps, if I'm to take a cure from the TV on stage, it's meant to evoke a 2 a.m. flick on one of those movies-for-guys-who-like-movies kind of stations. Barnett and Walter handle each other in a very pulpish way that, when matched with the blasting horns of Anitbalas's music, brings you into a giddy consumption of testosterone. The two rampantly devour the space with virtuosic dancing and dramatic athleticism.

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