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Flash Review 2, 11-29: Moving Men's Stories for All
Lubovitch's Universal 'Ruins'

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse

The interior of the Orensanz Center for the Arts is a fantastical space, with lavishly patinaed surfaces speaking of its rich cultural history as one of the city's first synagogues. In this setting, Lar Lubovitch's evening-length "Men's Stories," subtitled "A Concerto in Ruins," establishes its haunting, ethereal elegance.

The title of the piece is misleading. When the nine dancers take the stage, dressed in Ann Hould-Ward's cutaway coats, they happen to all be male, but they don't tell us so much about what it means or feels like to be men, as they reveal themselves as flawed, layered, and vulnerable humans. Lubovitch tells a story as individual as himself and as universal as us all, that touches on nostalgia and longing and frailty.

The first movement, "Allegro Giacoso," plunges a fleet of Edwardian fops into intricate floor patterns and ornate gesture. Ports de bras drip over strutting, arrogant legwork. The eye cannot rest on what seems to be a debris of 19th century tropes of Romantic male melancholy. Narcissus appears, as does Onegin. Bodies churn and swirl, leap and lunge. Solos, duets and trios emerge, and are flung from precise unison. Scott Rink and Jason McDole are suddenly engaged in a fluid duet to the tinkling of a piano, Michael Thomas whispers into a microphone. Or maybe those things happen in the second movement, "Adagio Maestoso."

There is pleasure in noticing the individualities of each performer as he executes the virtuosic vocabulary. Some are shy, some sly. Gerald Casel's hands blur in the fury of his attack. Rink's remarkable final solo is an agony of contortion.

Scott Marshall's score, a combination of audio collage and original music, creeps into your ear like a laudanum dream, layering a deconstruction of Beethoven with recordings of John Giorno, lectures on health and the occasional chanteuse.

When the men preen and gesticulate in poses superficially "macho," the work disintegrates into mimicry and pantomime. "Masculinity" becomes a drag, a mask, or as Judith Butler might say, an impersonation for which there is no original. The core of Lubovitch's work is something much deeper; the nine souls onstage are stripped to some essential bundle of human-ness, boys struggling to shoulder the contradictions of manhood. Or perhaps Lubovitch, now in his fifties, is revisiting moments of his artistry's development. The dancers' interactions feel intensely personal. Regardless of gender, they use Lubovitch's gorgeous line and detailed filigree to tell tales.

"Men's Stories" plays through December 8. For performance days and times, please call 212-221-7909.

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