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Flash Review 1, 5-13: Discovery
At Joyce Soho, a Choreographer is Born

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2000 The Dance Insider

Folks, last night I found a gem: that rare dance that combines choreographic sophistication and economy, technical virtuosity, and emotional depth of both choreography and dancing. It's called "Dancing Free to the Public," it's choreographed by young Victor Quijada and danced by Quijada and Sandra Standon, for $10 with three other works at the Joyce Soho it's practically free, it closes tonight, and if you snooze, you lose!

"Dancing Free" starts as pizazzy jazz dance, feats of the body, Tharpian quickness and deftness, and then, a few minutes into it, Quijada and Standon hit you with a body blow to the heart as, in one gesture, you suddenly realize something's at stake here. Quijada tries to take Standon's hand, she looks at him in mild shock of recognition -- a feeling from him, a feeling in her -- then turns away and ignores or tries to ignore his pleading, crossing to a plumbing pipe downstage right, keeping her back to him. He does an imploring solo on the floor for a while before she returns, her ferocity of body now deepened by a ferocity of heart. He stops for a while and just watches her, arms loitering at his sides. Finally they dance together again; he tries to repeat an earlier move, clasping his arms under her shoulders from behind, but she breaks free and then reverses the gesture. Finally she pushes him away, he collapses torso facing the ground, lifts himself a little before she mounts his shoulders in one swift walk-run and, like an explorer standing atop the mountain she's conquered, waves her hands and shakes her head as if to say, "No more."

This is not just a dance of emoting; all of these feelings are expressed in the phrases. It's a dance of grappling, a dance of joining, a dance of fleeing, a dance of pursuing, a dance of beseeching, a dance of coming together, a dance of breaking apart. It's played on all levels; sometimes him on the floor as she stands. They flip each other, they soft-shoe without actually looking at each other even as we realize, gradually, that they are always looking at each other.

This is a relationship, in miniature. The intensity of the energy, in solo and duet, makes it clear this pair are drawn to each other. But with that intimacy, everything becomes raw, reactions are instantaneous and ultimately unguarded, sweet and dangerous at the same time; there is no protection and this is what makes it real, more than just a dance. And yet at the same time, the drama isn't overdone to the point of becoming melodrama.

Oh, and did I mention the music? It's a brilliant choice, Dave Brubeck's constantly escalating "Blue Rondo a la Turk." This is one of those Bolero-esque musics, which starts in crescendo yet somehow continues to rise.

As many moves as Quijada came up with for the music -- and they showed his jazzy ballet background from dancing with Twyla Tharp, as well as his apprenticeship in dance as a championship-caliber breakdancer on the streets of East L.A. -- there was also an economy of gesture, particularly in those that revealed the dynamics of the relationship.

This was an adult dance, performed by adults for adults. It was in a way unfortunate for Nathalie Paoli that her contribution to the evening, "Heartbreak U.S.A.," had to be viewed before Quijada's. Standing next to Quijada's mature mining of relationships, it was a kid's play. Performed by Paoli and the adept Tania Varela-Ibarra, teary-eyed, to break-up songs sung by Kitty Wells ("Tomorrow was to be my wedding day, but I gave my wedding dress away," twang twang), this dance seemed to me puerile, obvious, all-surface, and with a choreography element that, while competent, did not match the theme or song, beyond the obligatory tears. Furthermore, there was something a little mean in it -- as if these two chickadees were having fun at someone else's expense. I'm not against satire, but to really, really be satire as opposed to just making-fun-of, choreography and dancing would have had to be more extreme -- a la David Parker, for instance.

Regarding Trisha Bauman's solo "Landing Gear," all I can tell you is that it was rigorously roadmapped. Emphasis on the "all I can tell you" -- this is not a comment on deficits in the dance but in my attention span. Dance and performer had a lot of integrity, I just was not in a place to receive abstraction. What I'm trying to say is I have no doubt Bauman, who performed and choreographed the piece, is on to something here, I'm just not the best person to explain what it is.

Claire Porter's "Ordering Greens," playing on the ordering relationship between a waitress and her customer -- the customer just wants a simple salad, she gives him a cubist delivery of menu choices, cubistly performed as she juts a hip out there, dips a head here, curves a torso -- works I think because of Porter's execution. Her speaking wordplay has its own danced rhythm. The words roll off her tongue, they're dancing too. There's also the way her body leans, off-kilter, the feet often remaining planted, to indicate she is switching from one to the other character. She makes you hungry, too, so by the end you're with the customer -- "Stop talking and give me some food" -- until the final moment, when the waitress reveals in two words why she can't stop talking: "Grief -- Lingering."

Beginning with this piece and ending with Quijada's squared the evening nicely. Since this was the second of three weekends and programs under the rubric "Joyce Soho Presents," I'm assuming the series was curated by someone, and hats off to them! The final weekend of Joyce Soho Presents takes place May 18-20, and features Charlotte Adams, Ivy Baldwin, Tina Croll, and Kathryn Sullivan. This weekend's series closes tonight; catch Quijada and Standon while you can or live to regret it. The two former Tharp dancers leave shortly for Montreal, where he's landed a position dancing with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Let's hope he keeps choreographing too!

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