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Flash Review 3, 8-23:
By Vanessa Paige-Swanson
"I'm not a feminist,"
says the 23-year-old, sexually active, happily single woman with
a master's degree and a full time career. "I'm really not a feminist."
We are in the dressing room at a female performance art festival.
We are putting on makeup. It is 1997. The 45-year-old college professor
in the video swivels her head on its axis and takes in the younger
woman's fashionable ensemble. "You're wearing pants," she snaps.
"You're a feminist." O.K., so it's not that simple. But spend an
evening with "WANTED: X-Cheerleaders," as I did last night at Context
Studios, and "women's issues" are simultaneously demystified and
turned into a rollicking evening's entertainment. In addition, the
choreography is as precise and snappy as the message.
Created by conceptual
artist and director Kim Irwin and choreographer Jody Oberfelder,
the 10-woman squad of former cheerleaders ranges in age from 19
to 53, and embraces a variety of races and body types. Bouncing
out in actual cheerleading uniforms, they begin with the traditional
"Hello" cheer, but after that, all bets are off. Topics range from
childbirth ("Push it out, push it out, waaaaayyyyyy out"), to condoms
(C-O-N-D-O-M-S!!). One of the most effective cheers tackles society's
ever-increasing obsession with thinness, chanting "Abs, thighs,
buns of steel, Puking after every meal! Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine,
I gotta be what's on the screen!"
The choreography also
twists the traditional. Rapid-fire stomping, clapping and jumping
combined with precise floor patterns, virtuoso acrobatics and even
a split or two, at once acknowledges the art form and tweaks its
nose. Brief moments of private sensuality collide with public displays
of enthusiasm; like the cheerleaders of our memories, there are
undercurrents at which we can only guess.
At roughly 55 minutes,
the performance is exactly the right length. Like the high school
tease they satirize, these cheerleaders know that less is more.
A larger screen for their intelligent, authentic video would be
money well spent. This is a minor issue, however. An old adage states
that "feminism is the radical idea that women are people". At a
WANTED: X-Cheerleaders show, feminism is as inclusive as wearing
repeats Thursday at 11:30 PM and Saturday at 10:30 PM, as part of
the New York International Fringe Festival. For more info on the
festival, which runs through Sunday, visit
its web site.
is a New York City-based choreographer and writer.
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