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Flash Review 2, 4-15: Simplicity
Do Jump! Knocks at New Victory's Door

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2000 The Dance Insider

Amidst the lights of Broadway and the infinite technology available to mount a show these days, sometimes what knocks you off your feet is a basic premise, energetically, earnestly, honestly, and with full concentration presented. I was reminded of this watching the physical, magical dance-theater company Do Jump! at the New Victory last night. Particularly the premiere, for the first time outside the company's Portland, Oregon base, of a tour-de-force athletic comedy piece called simply Doors.

Six doors are involved, three on top and three below a narrow platform, all mounted on a wood wall that stretches the height of the stage. The doors we saw Friday were specifically constructed for this tour, and made their debut last night as well! I'm hard-pressed to regurgitate one gag for you; this isn't that kind of comedy. The laughs here come more from dedicated, determined repetition. And it's not all laughs. The Door dance--the final of the 90-minute evening--begins hauntingly: We see just the doors, and hear just them being hammered on, from the other side. They eventually creep open a tad, and slats of light dance forth, not just on the stage, but into the theater. The figures that slowly emerge from the doorways hover in this light, casting their giant shadows throughout the auditorium.

The people emerge, the doors slam, and much of the rest of the dance consists of these six players trying various ingenious ways to open the doors and get back in, and the sounds, figures, and vistas that occasionally jump out at them from behind the doors.

This piece was long, but that was just fine--I found myself going into a trance about 15 minutes into it. Again, the yuks here were not from one specific gag; it was more a quiet, rolling laugh that stirred me and spread throughout me, just as the actor-dancer-acrobats interacted with the various portals, and eventually each other.

Portals; yes, this is in fact a good subtitle for the evening as a whole. And the portal was two-way. First, these players entered our audience world several times; we became a chorus, the musical director even warming us up. Seven of our ranks were drafted for one of the first pieces, donning "walkpersons" which, along with the direction of Do Jump! founder Robin Lane, instructed these pedestrians to lift legs, run around the room, wave ribbons they were handed, and finally cavort with two towering stilt dancers.

Indoor kite flying expert David Brittain also crossed the portal, swooping his multi- tiered and colored kites over the audience.

Going the other way--our looking through the portal into the performers' world-for another piece we were drawn into a world and bodies slowed and elongated by the trapeze. This section was not hurried at us in a New York minute, but languorous. This is not the first time I've seen this sort of elegiac trapeze dance--Lisa Giobbi famously brought it to the Joyce in 1999--but what marks this company's style is that it is patient and drawn out, and so eventually seems natural. Even the lighting suggested this; it started dark, but by the end all lights, even to a degree the house, were up. So that the magic had to be carried by the spinning, entwining, lyrical dancer-acrobats, and it was. Particularly by the tireless and ubiquitous Daniela Steiner.

Also standing out was Aaron Wheeler-Kay, a versatile charmer from his opening razzle-dazzle tap jam session with the live band, through his riff on "Singin' in the Rain," to the concluding rapid tap dance. My (non-dancer) companion put it best: Every inch of Wheeler-Kay's body seemed like a musical note.

There is a temptation in acrobatic dance theater to take it all allegro. What I liked most about this show was its adagio homieness. The performers somehow managed to show us a lot without being showy! In addition to those mentioned above, the ensemble included Wendy Cohen, Kelli Wilson, and Robin Woolman.

And, once again, I was reminded of the homeness of this most ornate, distinguished, and senior of Broadway theaters. (See Flash Review 3, 3-31, Return to Innocence, III.) Every show in the intimate New Victory--from big-time ballet like Suzanne Farrell's company to White Oak to high-wire acts--has the feel of a few friends performing for a few more of their friends. Audience members feel free to talk at the actors, as did the tyke who asked out loud during the door scene, "Why isn't anybody letting them in?"

Well, little Johnny, not to worry: They'll be letting folks in at the New Victory to see Do Jump! Through April 30. For more info, you can go to www.newvictory.org.

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