Aloha on the Hudson

Aloha on the Hudson

Caron Eule presents varied evening of dance that begins and ends on Waikiki

Hula is the reigning style in choreographer Caron Eule’s “Clean Springing 3.” The result is warm, welcoming, exuberant and just a bit cliché.

The performance at Cunningham Studios in the West Village on May 22 transported us without admitting a shred of irony. If there is any doubt in the dancers smiles, it’s barely perceptible. They can’t be serious.

But why ask and spoil the fun of an evening out with these excellent dancers and musicians?

The full, mixed, though still largely white, cast accumulates on the scene, waving hips and arms in grass skirts and bikini tops to a recording of Ray Kinney’s “Hula Hands.” A wave of men in the same outfits is the special attraction. Finally all gather into a formation suggestive of a volcano with the nine-year-old Bridget Clark held up at its peak. Live and lilting scat by Louise Rogers, composer Jon Diaz and Mathias Kunzli drives home the point in the interlude of music that follows.

“Suite Brazil” begins breezily with a “Morning” romance around a clothesline draped with colored scarves. Young love is followed by cruel reality in a memorable “Evening” bar scene. Alexa Weir is the cocktail waitress who strikes up a movement conversation with patron Cornelius Brown. It sours though and Weir cowers on the floor as Brown walks off, puffed out and chuckling coldly with a mate. “After Hours” brings us to the day’s close in this cohesive suite of four acts.

Eule’s version of “L’Chaim,” premiered in 1996, is anything but celebratory. Hers is a Holocaust remembrance that’s dramatic in the tradition of Martha Graham. Wier, Erin Hunter and Faith Hunter are a family struggling to stay together. The long bench, sometimes standing on its end like a monument, recalls a Noguchi prop. In this new version with fiddle, Colin Jacobson plays excellently, with a stage presence that feels essential.

We’re treated to New York City Ballet dancer Melissa Barak’s “Musiqawi/Wezewazay” with a live performance of traditional Ethiopian music. To this riveting music, Barak improvises with her hands. She repeats several angular movements, providing some structure. Her musical and spirited performance is never coy and thus full of believable integrity. One hopes she will find the time to develop this project.

“Face 2 Face” is Eule’s new piece, a slapstick vision of confused body parts. Eyes, nose and mouth are cut and pasted onto breasts, navels and butts or thighs respectively. The dancers rise three high in totems. This construction is performed to original music by Jeremy Kasha and includes laugh tracks. It’s highly entertaining, sexy and fun.

If this is not enough to transport the audience, what more can be done with a simple concept?

“Nocturne” achieves successful musicality as dancers in romantic dress sit on a piano bench, moving as if they are emanations of the Chopin classic. In “Spiral Songs,” Melissa Morrissey, on toe, drapes herself over a violinist struggling to play. Should we laugh or cry as the gorgeous dancing and spectacular quartet of strings cancel each other out?

The ponderous mood is lifted in the spell of a “Hula Reprise.” All the dancing is superb and Tony Marques’s lighting adds nuance to Eule’s work.

The unusual and varied music somehow holds together as an evening’s entertainment. Eule bills her company’s work as dancing for new audiences 101. The company is also something of an experimental petri dish, yet one that consistently delivers good clean fun. Talented dancers and musicians engage their adoring and returning crowds with visceral magic.