Goofballs And Scientists
A smorgasbord of the young and restlessly artistic at DANCEOFF!
BY EVA YAA ASANTEWAA
A recent scientific study found that regular attendance at DANCEOFF!the freewheeling showcase of works by emergent choreographersenhances brain functioning, keeping neural cells and synapses youthful even into advanced age. Okay, I made up the part about the study, but I bet the rest is true.
DANCEOFF! has been tickling audiences since Lisa LeAnn Dalton and Terry Dean Bartlett launched it in 1999 at Brooklyns Galapagos Art Space, where it was billed as Lisa LeAnn and Terry Dean Put on a DANCESHOW. A couple of name changes, numerous venues, and dozens of choreographers later, the seriesnow co-curated and co-produced by Bartlett and Katie Workumcontinues to be popular with fans who relish its fast-paced, variety-show format and dont mind a little theatricality and goofiness in their dance fare.
DANCEOFF!s two-night March season at PS 122 offered the usual mixed bag of tricks. Workum offered two excerpts from RED, a piece she will premiere at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, featuring Jerry Miller, Luke Miller, Will Rawls, Stephanie Roy, and Jenny Seastone Stern as a raucously dysfunctional family. This obnoxious little tribe danced bumbling, cartoonish movements while recounting the story of a long trip to-ge-ther, faces falling as those last three syllables dropped from their lips like chicken bones.
You have to be pretty quick to keep up with Workum, though a line from Sterns account will give you a rough idea of how things went on this vacationWe pretended we were in The Shining.
The excerpt from Cynthia Hopkinss apocalyptic Tsimtsum, which will be seen in its entirety this April on Dance Theater Workshops Sourcing Stravinsky program, had the evenings best and most complex costumea gleaming silver cloak, a pigs snout on her face, and mini-bottles of booze dangling from sleeves and hemsfor startersand an imitation of Laurie Andersons amplified vocal stylings. Hard to tell where this thing is going, but Hopkins really works it, so you might want to be there for the full unveiling.
Jonah Bokaer set up an elaborate setting for | underscore |. Dress forms with digital clocks for heads were scattered around the floor. Black-clad prop handlers unspooled yards of videotape, crisscrossing the space with its dark, shiny lines, even into the audience. The dancing itself took place on a central screen that showed various motion-capture animations of the choreographers wrist turning, hand flexing, fingers carefully articulating, andin later sequenceshis full body unleashing rapid-fire action. Julia Frodahls sound designduring which a horse neighs, cars skid and crash, a jet roars by, thunder powers up, a clock ticks, and alarms soundadded masterful depth to this captivating production.
Nate Schenkkanthis guy can move!lights up Shanti Crawfords videodance I Promise I Wont Break Stuff, a kind of postmodern breakdance that Id love to see again. Artifice Dentifrice or, Modern Face Dance, a work-in-progress by Will Rawls, at present looks nonsensical and slightly diverting. Rawls, Sharon Estacio, and Reba Mehan initially move and breathe like one organism, like conjoined triplets.
It Wasnt What You Thought It Was, by the talented Ani Weinstein and Russ Salmon, was billed as an excerpt from a longer relationship. Like a failed relationship viewed in hindsight, the duet showed its best face when Weinstein and Salmon drew it to a close by flawlessly recapping its more attractive features as pure movement, stripped of all text, acting, show-biz flash, and over-the-top nastiness. Pavel Zustiak showed an intriguing bit from Le Petit Mort (Now Its Time to Say Goodbye), in which five dancers dashed about to a lively waltz, trading off the role of a limp corpse dragged, shoved, and hoisted all over the space.
Skyler Sullivan provided three brief comic interludes of mime. Yes, mime. You wouldnt think DANCEOFF! would require comic interludes of mime, but there Sullivan was with his improbable meld of heroic and delicate physicality; his buttressed cheekbones and girlish, curly mop of hair; his pesky buzzing fly and pissed-off pussycatneither creature any less convincing for being persistently invisible.