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Flash Review 1, 3-17: Sinister Slapstick
Rubbing Up Against Garfield at the Y

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse

Keely Garfield's choreography celebrates the oddness and awkwardness of the human body, the parts behind, next to or beneath that get caught or hooked or rubbed by others. Her program at the 92nd Street Y's Playhouse 91, seen Thursday and the first of this season's Harkness Dance Project, features finely honed duets that show just how much a dancer can accomplish with her tongue in her cheek.

"My Sister Was a Refugee" offers two pig-tailed kewpies, Rachel Lynch-John and Lisa Townsend, manipulating and bullying each other through a game of Twister. Too few phrases are repeated too many times in this work-in-progress version, and the relentlessly arch tone strikes too few notes, while the crooning of Patsy Cline and Kitty Wells provides just the right mixture of complexly funny and sad.

Two premieres revel in a similar deadpan snicker-snack. Garfield finds a point between hilarity and despair and slams the pedal to the metal. Dancers become corrupt puppets, cavorting to the plink plonk of a sideshow spiel (tunes performed live by Phillip Johnston and the Transparent Quartet lend a mood of the careening Carnivalesque). A gesture's energy sometimes gets stuck before being allowed its full extension, or abrades a partner's available surface. Lawrence Goldhuber partners Garfield in "Past Caring": a peculiar Punch and Judy wooing each other with sleight-of-hand.

"Rub Me the Wrong Way" multiplies the possibilities for intertwining into a quartet, and into a greasier, stinkier vocabulary of pinches, slaps and tickles. In this piece the studied cool of the rest of the material heats up. The continuum between farce and melodrama gets stretched, the dancers sweat more and eat more space (not to mention each others' hands and fingers whenever they can), and Garfield's vision comes more fully to life.

Keely Garfield's Sinister Slapstick repeats Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 5 p.m.

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