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Flash Review 2, 8-26: "A Place in Line"
Stratton-Gonzalez Earns its Place

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse

I admit it: The blurb in the Fringe NYC guide describing "A Place in Line" made me groan. "... oral histories ... explores our immigrant tradition ..." Oh no. A dance-drama about the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. En route to the Present Company Theatorium, I expected to be suffocated by polemics or saccharined by feel-good, shallow bravado. I was so wrong. The 11 dancers of Stratton-Gonzalez Dance Theatre achieve sensitive, layered, richly textured performances; their humanity is drop-dead gorgeous. Artistic directors Sandra Stratton-Gonzalez and Jojo Gonzalez have crafted the kind of work that will, as it ages, become a signature classic.

Yes, the cast are all apparently non-native to this stinkpot America, and throughout the piece they tell their stories -- in movement, song and text. But not with stars in their eyes, not with bells and whistles. The specificity of their stories produces intimacy, while their movement vocabularies allow each of them to be celebrated as an individual inside fluid, formally designed parabolas.

The stories are poignant, often harrowing, compelling. Rather than devolving into the politics of U.S. immigration, the focus rests on these particular 11 souls, who happen to be immigrants. The Big Apple, in all its ludicrous inelegance, looms as a twelfth character.

The polyglot style of the piece shares qualities with the dances of Marta Renzi, or Liz Lerman on a good day. Gesture and a variety of formal elements all exist to facilitate a basic, simple yet eloquent communication. An inclusive, hopeful record of the human heart.

"A Place in Line" is performed again tomorrow at 5 PM at the Present Company Theatorium, 198 Stanton Street.

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