Postmodern cabaret

By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  July 10, 2007

Joseph Poulson and Darrin M. Wright dance a side-by-side duet, stepping and swinging, arms around the shoulders. They seem no more than easy companions, except that they glance at each other from time to time, Wright with an open-faced pleasure, Poulson with a glint of “What if?” This little dance is taken up later by the others, extrapolating finally into a partner-switching grand finale for the five dancers.

With new costume bits — frowzy fringes and glittery straps, whole outfits, many of which get discarded or destroyed in the course of battle — the dancers enact bizarre encounters, some tender, some hilarious. Wright and Miller do an erotic duet with one man on the floor and the other hanging upside down in the trapeze. Miller and Poulson play a mysterious game in which Miller is allowed to — or has to — touch something red. Poulson tweaks open his shirt to reveal a red undershirt, then plants pieces of red duct tape on the floor. He leads Miller down into the audience, straight toward my friend, who’s wearing a red blouse. Miller’s hand hovers six inches from the blouse. Then they retreat.

Susan Marshall can string together nonsensical actions just verging on plausibility and build them into funny anticlimaxes. Poulson and Wright prepare to serve tea, attended by Hollinsworth and van Noort, who are lying on the floor beside them. Familiar implements appear from unexpected places and get misused, reverentially. It’s as cryptic as a Japanese tea ceremony.

Marshall’s company members are masterful at committing themselves to absurdity. The more ludicrous the task, the more involved they get. When Hollinsworth, strategically covered with feathers, seduces Poulson to the accelerating dance music from Zorba the Greek — well, you have to see it to understand why the number is called “Chicken Flicker.”

VICTORIOUS: The agony of World War I?

Doug Varone’s company of eight accomplished modern dancers is in the public eye a lot these days, though his work is altogether more conventional. Varone danced with the José Limón and Lar Lubovitch companies before starting his own group in 1986, and his movement style shows that influence in its rhythmic drive, in the swing and flow of movement through the whole body.

In the opening dance, Castles, which is set to Prokofiev’s Waltz Suite, you could also see how much Varone has embellished those basic energies with flowery gestures, reverses, interrupted impulses, and traveling floorwork. Nothing in this dance took me to the drama implied by its title, or its music, which Prokofiev drew from his Cinderella ballet and his War and Peace and Lermontov film scores. Varone seems preoccupied with making extravagant movement, and the more literary ideas he talks about in interviews don’t make themselves evident on stage. What does strike me is the physical stamina and daring of the dancers.

Victorious, Varone’s new piece, is set to the Elgar Cello Concerto in an arrangement for cellist (Zuill Bailey) and pianist (Robert Koenig), who were placed on opposite sides of the forestage, to give us a stereophonic but unmiked musical treat. The dance began with a long solo for Natalie Desch. She seemed drawn to the floor, somehow agonized, twisting, spurting, running, thrusting, one complex move at a time, almost always starting with a breathless, quick impulse.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
Related: Postmodernizers, Country for old men, Why blame Chekhov?, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Entertainment, Petra van Noort, Leon Botstein,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    Erik Satie called his vocal work Socrate a "symphonic drama," though it's anything but dramatic in a theatrical sense — or symphonic, either.
  •   JOFFREY BALLET GETS ITS DUE  |  May 08, 2012
    New York has two great ballet companies, New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater. Any other ballet troupe that wants to put down roots there has to develop a personality that's distinct from those two.
  •   THE BOSTON BALLET’S DON QUIXOTE  |  May 01, 2012
    In the long string of ballet productions extracted from Miguel de Cervantes's novel Don Quixote, the delusional Don has become a minor character, charging into situations where he shouldn't go and causing trouble instead of good works.
    When Trey McIntyre found a base for his infant company in Boise, Idaho, four years ago, eyebrows lifted in the dance world.
  •   BALLET HISPANICO FALLS SHORT  |  March 13, 2012
    All three dances presented by Ballet Hispanico at the Cutler Majestic last weekend depended heavily on costume effects to convey their messages.

 See all articles by: MARCIA B. SIEGEL