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Flash Review 2, 8-21: Back for Seconds
Deli Dances, Part Two

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse

What a remarkable thing was the day-long marathon finale of this year's "Deli Dances in Times Square." Everything I love about the hodgepodge plurality of voices known as "Downtown Dance" was in abundance; some of the things I hate about it were too. When they're bad, these dances can be jejune, self-indulgent, gimmicky, precocious, flaccidly misfired. But like the little girl with the little curl, when they're good, they're gorgeous. The marathon started last Friday at lunchtime. Approximately 30 choreographers strutted their stuff in Chashama's space on 42nd Street before the end of the night.

First, though, I need to rave about a piece seen earlier in the series. Paul Langland has a power onstage that is so compelling, I'd wait in line to watch him read the yellow pages. In a solo, "Heat," performed Tuesday the 15th, Langland entered a sequence of energy states that asked "What is passion? What is maleness?" with humor and humility. Langland sculpted an unknowable ground of creativity with its own symbols, its own delight, its own enchantment. (For my review of the first week of Deli Dances, please see Flash Review, 8-11: Performance-O-Rama.)

The broad strokes and ambition of programming like Deli Dances produce inescapable comparisons between individual choreographers and their works. Is there a new "movement" emerging? Downtown is a laboratory, a hive, a crucible, wherein dance lineages and fads collide to sometimes form new hybrids, sometimes traverse familiar terrain. Here are some of the exceptional images jotted in my notes, in no particular order.

In the display window of the theater, a body encased in a floral cloth bag achieved something that might be called task-oriented Narcissism. Onstage, Eric Butler's duet made strange bedfellows of Nancy Stark Smith's spontaneity and Stephen Petronio's phrase-making sensibility. The result: equal parts intimacy and daring.

The use of spoken text has become de rigueur, slipped into odd nooks and crannies of a piece to enhance characterization and/or increase puzzlement. Many choreographers display a sort of virtuosity of the awkward (Wendy Blum, Christine Bodwitch). The level of detailed idiosyncrasy leaves little to chance or leaves everything to chance. Julie Atlas Muz's solo might have had the title, "This Bag Is Not a Toy." With her head swaddled in a cheap plastic grocery sack, Muz flickered her tongue and stomped around in a canary yellow gown, killing with her kunst.

Prettiness is a rarity Downtown -- all the better to eat you with, my dear. Tony Silva's four short duets took advantage of the disparity in his dancers' heights to nail apparently impossible lifts. Silva also composed the score, suitably lyrical, folksy, contained. A trio by Christine Suarez gave her dancers a lush permission for swaying and hesitating inside its crisp composition. Initially "pretty" dancing transmuted into a kookiness mellowed by charm.

Dana Salisbury provided a singularly outrageous moment, with her song "Anus, Little Anus." Fernando Maneca offered a paradoxical beauty under the surface of a broken down human honky tonk. Neither of their visions were for the faint of heart.

Since I have the space, I'd like to applaud all who volunteered to perform at Battery Dance last Wednesday, for The Dance Insider's "First Annual Staff Performance and Dance Party." It was an honor to share with the stage with talents like Rachel Berman, Veronica Dittman, Faith Pilger, Tehreema Mitha, Robin Hoffman, Darrah Carr, Terry Hollis, Tamieca McCloud, Rebecca Stenn and Jay Weissman. Since I was preoccupied with preparing to dance in public for the first time in nearly two years (a solo choreographed by Lise Brenner), I didn't get to see any of their work in totality, but the fragments I did watch were awesome. For more on the performance, see Flash Review 3, 8-21: All Killa, No Filla.


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