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Flash Review 1, 9-26: It's a Guy Thing
From Humor to Physical Daring 'In the Company of Men'

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse

Charles Wright, artistic director of "In the Company of Men," cites lofty goals for the origin of his annual showcase at Pace Downtown Theater: "To provide a forum in which each choreographer would be say what he had to say as a man and as a male dancer." Wright's vision was born after a decade of watching the dance community lose its men to AIDS. Much of the work in last weekend's concert struggled to distinguish itself under this aegis. With humor (Matt Jensen, Andrew Asnes & John Selya), with physical daring (Wright, Gabriel Masson), and with mixtures of both, choreographers defined aspects of male behavior and identity to engage the cynical and delight the voyeuristic.

A pas de quatre by Le Minh Tam, "Territory," transcended a simple query into maleness. With violence just under its surface, then erupting, Tam and Joshua Bisset, Colin James Harvey and Prosenjit Kunda unfolded characterizations with layered relationships, private urgencies. Tam allows his choreography the time and space to discover itself, in a vocabulary equally derived from vernacular and classical styles.

With occasional offhand reference to Petipa's four cygnets, Nicholas Leichter's second act pas de quatre, "Undertow," provoked a stylish unease. Leichter shows a choreographic audacity that brings to mind two choreographers not-yet-familiar to New Yorkers, Ralph Perkins and Reginald Crump. He and his dancers, Daniel Clifton, Justin Jones and Will Rawls, strained against each other in black leather skirts, sometimes achieving synchrony, sometimes with effort dwindling into stasis. With some of its movement seemingly derived from Fosse-esque or MTV vanity, Leichter dangles a roguish portrayal of boyishness.

Jason McDole, in an astonishing performance, portrayed a man obsessed, in Robert Battle's "Isolation." The speech-generated loops of Steve Reich's "Different Trains" might be a problem -- the composition's anxious repetitions create an appropriately manic edge for McDole's tics and stutters, but the specificity of its text offers tangles unanswered. McDole compulsively packs and unpacks a suitcase, somersaults into it, and destroys his environment, with whiplash attack.

Matt Jensen visited the origins of homoeroticism in Greek sculpture and captured an earnest, awkward sort of masculine nature. "Herakles and Ganymede," a sparring match between a poseur and a doofus, courageously unmasked male insecurities. Charles Wright and Gabriel Masson looked at the combative parts of male camaraderie. Nathan Trice, with ceremonial solemnity, passed on the mantle of adulthood to his young partner, Brian Lyons Cambell. This duet confirmed another facet of Wright's mission, to inspire new generations of male dancers.

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