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The Donohue Blog, 9-10: A New York Pastorale, Smeared
Who am I to stand in the way of The People and The Dance?

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2009 Maura Nguyen Donohue

NEW YORK -- I love seeing DanceNOW [NYC]'s audiences in Dance Theater Workshop's house. They're a mashup of general public infantry and decorated dance devotee officers, and serve to remind me of the wider audiences that dance can reach when the gates are opened a little wider and the formula is tried and tested over a decade and a half. So, while Day Two of the fall festival didn't always suit my preferred dance palette, there was still plenty of grist for ye ol' mental mill about who gets to make work, who gets to show it where, and who might even care.

Karl Anderson/Slamfest's "Ice Cube In A Blender" (excerpt) begins with an onstage narrator's "Once upon a time..." and reveals a mathematics-loving princess battling her nemesis, Inertia. Naoko Nagata's fanciful costumes evoke a fairytale landscape that the narrator doesn't manage to match or counter in her lackluster delivery. Amos Pinhasi meanders around a conch shell in his minimal solo "Mediterraneo." Kyle Abraham's excerpted solo from his new work "The Radio Show" may have spatially roamed, but never with a leisurely pace. Tha' boy is buck -- like a masterly yet malfunctioning "krump"-bot. Abraham is all electric sparks, twitching and flaring in tightly wound rebounds with a fire that itches to explode as it festers just below the surface. Sidra Bell offers a sister piece full of black leather and tulle clad killer fem-bots in her "your distance kept." Jacquie Dumas, Leslie Hubilla, Alexandra Johnson, Troy Ogilvie, and Amber Lee Parker dance with concerted intensity. An opening solo is satisfying in rippling and precise mechanical articulation.

Tami Stronach's "But It's For You" allows me yet another glance at the joy that is watching Lindsey Dietz Marchant dancing with Darrin Wright. Marchant has a way of connecting so personably with any partner, and with Wright a kind of simpatico abounds. With a large white helium balloon suspended above a flowerpot and Karinne Keithley's light-hearted score, it's easy to envision a spring picnic of dance. However, with Stronach the whimsy is always a bit weary and wonderously weird. Wright squeezes lemon juice, adds it to a pitcher of water and offers but a drop of it to Marchant. She eventually demands more and a frustrated Wright dumps the pitcher's worth out. Marchant kneels on the floor and sucks the spilled lemonade off the floor before Wright grabs her and uses her like a mop. The pastorale smears to reveal a different portrait beneath.

Lane Gifford's excerpted "Jake's Dilemma" caused me considerable pause. The cringe-factor was high during the over-literal monologue, delivered by Rick Busser, depicting the inner workings of a working-class, straight, white male's psyche as written by a female choreographer. The gender representations reflected the kind of stereotypical duality and dueling of the sexes that raise my haunches. But I can bet my firefighting brother-in-law would've finally seen a dance he understood if he weren't cooking in SoCal with his brethren. So, who am I to stand in the way of The People and The Dance with my hoity-toity 2nd-wave feminazi, multiculti, experimental agenda?

Deborah Lohse's duet "Her" is sweet in comparison, a pensive look at partnership and one's part in it as danced with exquisite loveliness by Tammi Shamblin and Candice Thompson. Amber Sloan's "Below" is a luscious, rolling and roiling duet with Mathew Rogers. Yin Yue is joined by Clare Cook, Christina Noel Reaves, and Leah Schrager for her primal "Get Me Out of Here." The dancing is robust -- beating out a fast and furious escape from pathways that repeatedly lead to having a psychopath's babies (according to Jeffrey Smith's score). Nicholas Leichter's "The Whizza/He's The Wizard for Merce" is part of Leichter's reinvention of the musical "The Wiz." It comes to life when Monstah Black sings from the back of the house and joins Leichter and Stephanie Liapis onstage for a lively and animated teaser for the full work, which will premiere at Joe's Pub in March for DanceNOW's Dancemopolitan series.

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