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Flash Review 1, 6-23: Elkins Elopes
Wholly Holy: Doug Elkins at Tisch

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue

Doug Elkins has a fantastic group of dancers in his company, as evidenced in their concert, fittingly titled "Something Borrowed, Something New," at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts last night. I must begin by admitting to a specific bias from knowing two of the dancers from my college days in The Happy Valley. But regardless, they are all wonderful movers and engaging performers. Especially the women. Not that Brian Caggiano, Alexander Escalante and Luis Tentindo don't do excellent work. They do. But, the women are noticeably strong and sinuous performers. Rebecca Chisman moves with exquisite precision. She is a very articulate and present dancer. Watching Kristen Daley move is like ingesting liquid silk, she's so smooth. Which is an appropriate complement to the intensity of Fritha Pengally. On stage Pengally is as striking as a hawk, moving with contained majesty and steel grace. And Lisa Nicks, a founding member, delivers an ever increasing study in finesse.

"In Winter, Stand" (1999) is a beautiful work. In a refreshing shift, the normal Elkins movement vocabulary of obvious capoeira movement, obvious hip hop reference or obvious ballet spoof amid standard contemporary movement is here melded into a much subtler shifting. The work opens with an adroit duet for Rebecca and Kristen followed by a second section danced by Lisa and Brian that further fills the lush landscape of movement in this recent work. They ease through a continuous alternating of weight and space, creating so many brief and beautiful images that eventually we can't tell exactly where one dancer ends and the other begins. The third section allows Luis to join the group for a seamless display of refined composition. The dancers interweave, depart and rejoin one another without apparent effort while simultaneously maneuvering through complex partnering and spatial relationships. The group work is fantastic and the dancing is a meeting of athleticism and elegance. In the program it is offered "For Anne W." and I can't help but think how sincere a gift beautiful art can be.

Considering that 3/5ths of my own original company are about to 'do the deed' in one way or another this summer and that I find the question of Monogamy a constant brain teaser I have to say I found the preview of "Wholly Matrimony" to be a little lacking. Granted, it is a preview. The work premieres later this summer in California. But, although I was amused by the occasional slide such as "We are the only animals that think of ourselves as animals" I found myself waiting for something to sink my teeth into. Part of that is my own issue, having considered "The Marriage Project" as a possible next work. But, of course, I'd have to address issues like heterosexual privilege and guilt, capitalism and patriarchy and I gather Doug probably just wanted to have a little fun. And, admittedly, fun is had -- whether it be the Pride weekend-appropriate fantasy turn headache for the tastefully butch Fritha and her three femme friends, or the "3 amigos" style bravado of "The Bachelor Party." But by the time we get to "To the wedding, to the wedding" (to the always enjoyable "I Zimbra" by The Talking Heads) I'm hoping we could get off the up left, down right diagonal canon, having seen it overtly used a few times before both in this work and the one previous.

The program closes with the 1992 "The Stuff of Recoiling." The electric music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and David Byrne send me between images of both Sufi and surfer. It seems primarily a showcase for dancing and movement and grows into an intelligent use of space. But with seemingly random hula-inspired movements plopped into the middle of a phrase, it does not equal the sophistication that Doug offers in his newer movement work.

Doug Elkins Dance Company will be at NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, 111 Second Avenue tonight at 8pm. Note: These shows mark the final New York performances as a full-time company member of Lisa Nicks. For reservations, call 212-998-1982.

 

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