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Flash Review, 11-17: A Little Something....
Putting Upper Manhattan on Dance's UMAP

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue

The only real disappointment with last night's "Autumn Leaps" showcase presented by the new Upper Manhattan Arts Project (UMAP) and hosted by Keren Shani and Terry Hollis was the meager turnout. Don't take that as critical complaint but rather as a rally for support. With an emphasis on cultivating new works and emerging artists, UMAP is dedicated to providing performance or presentation platforms in the upper Manhattan area. Executive director Timothy Breese Miller says UMAP is tapping into neighborhood (and city-wide) talent and venues, in an effort to foster a closer connection between the arts community and the residential community of upper Manhattan. It's definitely come through on the talent side. Now if only my neighbors -- this assignment was a blissful 5-minute walk -- had been there.

Despina Stamos and Wen-Shuan Yang's "Cold Blooded Was the Bird" is well-executed absurdity. It's also an effective use of props and costuming, with wooden cats making their way across the front of the stage, once dragging a canary and then revealing it eaten and sitting in its painted belly. A cardboard picture of a pitcher pours water into a glass. Two formally dressed ladies and a turkey carving, Toby Billowitz, set the backdrop for athletic duets. I had never before consider the rooster's intense neuroses until watching Stamos and Yang blast their way through imitations in gesture and posture. Though both aspects were enjoyable, the strong dancing seemed at times in competition with the theatrics.

Terry Hollis's piece is like a long drink of water after a dry spell. Hollis sumptuously shifts through his expansive limbs and sends me into one of my visceral body twitching experiences watching him move. Writing as a mover and not a writer, this is work I love to see because it makes me want to get up and do the same thing. His physical riffs and timing are as free-wheeling as the Duke Ellington he's dancing to.

Jon Zimmerman performs "Mergers and Acquisitions" with Billowitz. The duet opens with the promise of romance in a shower of red rose petals. We see the power play develop as Zimmerman literally steps all over Billowitz, who is a sturdy base in some precarious positions.

Dana Salisbury uses a retractable tent pole, black wig and aluminum tray in her examination of "Salom'e." Unfortunately, this was my second Salome of the season (See Flash Review 2, 9-8: She's Nobody's Puppet) and proved not as informed as the first. Kraig Patterson wrapped up the evening with a short, sweet & sassy solo in a pink tutu. "Margot" is an excellent character study in which Patterson perfectly captures the abandon and preciousness of an overzealous bunhead.

The evening finished off UMAP's inaugural series, "Hopscotch Thursdays." Every other Thursday offered up music, poetry or play readings in the hall of St. Michael's Church at 99th and Amsterdam. UMAP is planning a holiday event for the week of December 12 in a different venue. If you're interested in participating or getting involved with UMAP, contact Miller at (212) 666-2398 or email ArtsProject@mac.com.

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