Archive for June, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012
By Merilyn Jackson

Dance of the lower-case companies! Kate Watson-Wallacer, and Jaamil Kosoko are dancer/choreographers who recently formed anonymous bodies, and Megan Bridge and Peter Price, who make up a team they call fidget, have paired up this weekend at Christ Church Neighborhood House. Both partnerships engage in dance theater, live music, on-site installation, multi-media, social justice and political themes, and audience involvement. In a trend that’s been growing, if diminutively, they titled their show “us.”

Another trend that’s been around for awhile has the performers on stage in costume and going through their paces before the show actually starts. Watson-Wallace, in a red jumpsuit, and Kosoko, in crimson-sequined crinolines around his neck instead of his waist, wore tinselly wigs that made them look, appropriately enough, like July 4th sparklers. The program notes said they were attending a funeral for the United States. But although they looked solemn, danced with flags, and Watson-Wallace took a series of violent death drops, there was little to suggest a funeral.

They better reached their intention to defy genre, gender and identity when, Kosoko changed to a white suit, Watson-Wallace returned to the stage in a black suit, and both rolled their T-shirts up over their heads. Hiding their faces made them anonymous. Exposing their chests — black male skin in white and white female skin in black — made quite a nice statement, but not enough to flesh out this unfinished piece. Prior to the show they invited the audience to check out the scant “installation” on stage, but it piqued no one’s curiosity.

In Kosoko’s solo, other.explicit.body, he wore a cut-up sweatsuit graffitied with slogans: “Black Power” across his bottom. To live music by Brandon Shockley with a voice-over NPR interview of novelist and essayist Touré, Kosoko shadow boxes, drags a netted basketball around chained to his ankle, and writhes on the floor. Whether in defiance of or compliance with all these stereotyping props, he picks up books on black dance and the black body from a stack and reads their titles before slamming them to the floor.

Fidget’s Subject in Two Parts was reprised from four years ago, when I reviewed it at Community Education Center. Bridge, as ever, is a riveting dancer, whether deconstructing Jack Cole’s choreography for Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, projected and distorted behind her by Price, or standing naked pulling ticker tape from her mouth. In the second part, the electric presence of Annie Wilson joined John Luna, Lorin Lyle and Rebecca Sloan, recharging the group dynamics and the piece. And so the show was about the body, anonymous or seen.–fidget.html


Posted: Sat, May. 19, 2012, 3:00 AM
By Merilyn Jackson

You could sum up the work of the genius stagecrafter and choreographer Moses Pendleton by saying he exceeds the influence of such peers as Alwin Nikolais, Elizabeth Streb, Mummenschanz, and Pilobolus, the now-41-year-old company he cofounded, then left in 1983 to form MOMIX. His inventiveness and artistry far surpass the popular Cirque du Soleil.

A Dance Celebration favorite, MOMIX opened at the Annenberg Center on Thursday night to a nearly full house with its show “reMIX.” Instead of one of his evening-length works, Pendleton offered an exotic caravan of pieces — some new, some familiar — that drew oohs, aahs, and scatterings of applause throughout.

I’d love to be able to see into Pendleton’s dreams just one night, but dreams alone don’t make theater like this. It needs imagination, an understanding of the laws of physics — inertia, centrifugal force, gravity, weight, velocity — and the grit to work out the precision timing that keeps his dancers safe, all of which someone like Streb employs with ease. But like Nikolais, Pendleton brings beauty, mystery, emotion, and uproarious fun to the table, too.

In his and Karl Baumann’s piece TableTalk, Steven Marshall, a phenomenal gymnastic dancer who performed in many of the works, splays his arms out and, with head below the rim of the table, draws us in with a powerful rippling of his shoulder muscles. He proceeds through every possible permutation of stance until finally he twirls the table on his back and carries it off.

In Tuu, with Rebecca Rasmussen, he holds and lifts her, with every press of the feet, lean of the body, fall, timed to perfection. In Dream Catcher with Cara Seymour, he commands a giant elliptically designed gyroscope, which the two pivot and swing around on in dangerous-looking variations.

Two dances by the company’s women endeared with sensuality and wit: In Marigolds, Phoebe Katzin’s fabulous orange frills enfolded the women and allowed them to shimmy the dresses down their bodies till they were rumba-like sheaths. Baths of Caracalla, by the same five women, now in white by Katzin, harked all the way back to Loie Fuller, with the women rippling their white skirts like bath towels, flags, or clouds.

Sputnik and Pole Dance were magnificent spectacles, using poles for balancing, vaulting, and flying, that Philadelphia choreographer Brian Sanders had a hand in contriving.

By the concert’s end the ethereal, Asian-inspired ambient sound and lounge music grew tedious — my only complaint — so it was a great relief in the last piece, If You Need Some Body, to hear Bach, which I normally hate for dance. It made a perfect foil for the ebullient silliness of the company of 10 partnered by floppy dummies that ended up flying joyfully from dancer to dancer.


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