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Show Not Tell With Munisteri at P.S. 122
By Tom Patrick
Copyright 2000 Tom Patrick
Tonight I got
to witness a terrifically refreshing concert: Ben Munisteri and
company in "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" at P.S. 122. I had absolutely
no idea what to expect in terms of movement or outlook, nor am I
now in the least disappointed to say I still wouldn't classify him
or the work I saw. I didn't come away with an impression of Mr.
Munisteri himself, really, more like a sparked curiosity....
Except for a
disarming little spoken address from Munisteri (intimating we were
hearing his own piano playing from yesteryear, and a few other such
personal tidbits,) I didn't really see evidence that the point of
the choreography or the concert was intended to be telling us about
him. No, something much subtler was going on, and I appreciated
it! The four dances--flowing so well into each other and performed
without pause or intermission--offer us a banquet of imagery that
is never tiresome or predictable. I think it FRESH. Far from just
eye-candy or simple sculptural moments, the dances pulse relentlessly
with bursts of ideas rising from very pleasing flow. Quite simply,
it looks like it feels good, feels rich, even while they're dodging
those support columns on the P.S. 122 stage.
Given the close
integration of the four "sections" and the ever-changing soundscape
involved, I didn't punctuate between them in the viewing, and I
won't do so here either. It was truly one dance tonight, thanks
in no small way to the imagination and soft touch in Kathy Kaufmann's
lighting. So many wonderful contributions there, to great effect!
Ginger Blake's costumes in all cases showed the dancers' beautiful
selves beautifully, versatile designs in some sensuous fabrics appropriate
for a spectrum of situations.
And the dancers,
ah, the dancers. Well, they were not only covered by and bathed
in intriguing ideas from Munisteri, Kaufmann, and Blake. They had
quite a bit of their own to say. There was, even in the intimacy
of the venue, an understatement in their regard for each other that
might almost be the protective discretion of love, and certainly
of respect. The concentration and cooperation among all was riveting
in itself sometimes, for I swear they were directing our (my) attention
between them, along and across their backs, from the ends of their
purposeful limbs. Turning their attention frankly toward us sometimes,
there was, I felt, a great inclusiveness to their attitudes...."C'mon,
I want to show you something...." It was not ingratiating or blank
or anything but...hmmm...intriguing again.
A further word
or two about these facile performers....Loved 'em all--Kudos! I'm
always amazed at Tricia Brouk's effect on me: What an amalgamation
of sacred and profane...and making it all look so easy. Wow. Likewise
Chris McMillan, whose fluency belies the difficulty inherent in
plenty of those sequences, yet she soars like bird in the sunshine.
Lisa Wheeler was tirelessly engaging, throughout. She, too, exemplifies
an enviable "appropriateness" that is a great gift in my opinion.
In witnessing this I felt drawn into "what" she was doing, sometimes
"why," but not distracted by the "how." This surety and ease was
displayed across the board: The organic dancing was really satisfying
to behold. Mr. Munisteri danced in the work throughout, their quarterback,
and shone especially I thought in a duet with Ms. Wheeler. Tonight
was the New York debut of Francisco Graciano as well, as the fifth
of five. He too betrayed no nerves or reservations, just the willingness
to show us something. They all did.
I came away
from the concert stimulated from the hour-long ride, my head filled
with suggestions and memories and hope. The run of Ben Munisteri
and these evocative dances continues at P.S. 122 through Sunday,
January 30, and Thursday-Sunday, February 3-6. I recommend it!
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