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Flash Review 2, 6-28:
Dendy Rocks On
Bad Boy Goes to His Room to be Cool
By Byron Woods
Copyright Byron Woods 2000
DURHAM, NC -- Rock and
roll has always been about very visible, physical expressions of
social, sexual and political identities -- the open, public display
of circumscribed feelings, beliefs, and individual characteristics.
That's why rock has always been controversial at its best. By definition,
it's acting out and acting up; not merely stating truths that someone
somewhere isn't ready to deal with yet, but defiantly embodying
them. Even though a generation falls between Elvis, the early activism
of Tom Robinson, and the current fury of Sleater-Kinney, in its
time each constitutes a necessary public manifesto concerning sexuality,
identity, and freedom.
With that said, rock
has always also been about excess. Given unlimited freedom to explore,
its artists have just as regularly disappeared into self-indulgence,
narcissism, and narcosis.
We see more than a little
of these in Mark Dendy's work, "I'm Going To My Room to be Cool
Now, and I Don't Want to be Disturbed," which opened Monday evening
in Reynolds Theater at the American Dance Festival. Calling this
work a world premiere stretches the term, since significant portions
of this uneven omnibus of works set to classic rock and rhythm and
blues songs were taken from earlier work at New York University,
and featured in Dendy's "Rock and Roll: Classic Sweet," which played
Central Park's SummerStage last year.
Perhaps it's inevitable
that such a patchwork project shows in places unevenness in stitching.
Hurriedly assembled when it became obvious that the previously commissioned
"Bible Stories" would not be done in time, "Room" repeatedly veers
between sexual stridence, celebration, silliness and self-absorption.
It doesn't always appear to do so intentionally.
Frank, full-bodied gay
desire, defiantly mapped out in Alexander Gish and Timothy Bish's
sinuous pas de deux to Rufus and Chaka Khan's "Tell Me Something
Good," is undeniably one of the strong sections of the work. But
the workmanlike, unimaginative reiterations set to Led Zeppelin's
"Rock and Roll" add little to our knowledge of the pogo or classic
headbanging -- much less other modern dance. In this and other sections,
if you take the music away, what's left doesn't always stand on
In the initially promising
section set to Janis Joplin's rendition of "Summertime," Ashley
Gilbert's technique was marred by odd little choreographed seizures,
unsuccessful quotes from James Brown's legendary stage shows. An
abrupt descent followed: Bish's lengthy, incongruous solo to Led
Zep's "Black Dog," here an absurd exercise in manic autoeroticism.
Despite the histrionics, crotch grabs and affiliated hand jive,
Dendy's movement here and elsewhere remains so much smaller than
the music. Laughably so in places: Chippendales on a bad night,
Lawrence Keigwin's self-choreographed
solo for "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" was spare, tasteful,
and pensive. The dramatic mid-show sequence to Lou Reed's "Walk
on the Wild Side" featured leather-clad dancers on an imaginary
turquoise catwalk. The characters traded moments in the spotlit
center of the stage in brief solos that barely scratched the surface
Further on, Christalyn
Wright convincingly convulsed with the news of "Papa Was a Rolling
Stone," and Nicole Berger and Gish movingly enacted the vulnerability
and awkwardness contained in Patty Smith's pensive "Wave." Steven
Ochoa's shaking arms and hands remained irritatingly stylized, kvetching
writ large throughout Joni Mitchell's "Blue." Earlier, though, he
distinguished himself as the histrionic lead dancer of what appeared
to be an all-gay Vegas act set to "Proud Mary."
(Editor's Note: For
more on Mark Dendy, see Flash Review 2, 4-28:
Double-teamed and Flash Review 2, 2-28:
Broadway Dance Un-shrunk.)
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