Big Numbers

The dancers are Kathryn Tufano and Jeffrey Kazin, and the piece is David Parker's Tender Traps. Like all Parker's clever dances, it belches irony, marrying the comic with the poignant, the light touch with the dark. Here are partners who have to grope for each other because they're covering their eyes, who are so rigid that his arms won't stay around her. While Doris Day and Frank Sinatra sing "Young at Heart" from the score of the eponymous film, Tufano is delicately discovering that she doesn't even like the way Kazin smells. The dialogue and false starts on rehearsal tapes of the movie songs equate with the jolts in this relationship. A momentarily stuck record can cause a foot to backtrack.

Although heard rhythms are a Parker trademark, he's an all-around musical choreographer. Tufano and Kazin slap out a terrific duel of fast dancing to "Ready, Willing, and Able." In the 1998 solo Pop, Tufano plays bold but wary games, trying to get as close as she can to a piece of bubble wrap without stepping on it. When she finally plops down, aural and visual effects come eerily together. The bubbles erupt like gunshots amid the cheery music of Schotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band.

Parker's offstage voice announces Dances for Dylan Dog as a work-in-progress, forerunner of an extravaganza that'll debut in Verona with a cast of 40. Based on an Italian comic strip and danced to assortment of old pop tunes, it does seem a bit undercooked at this point, but it's fun to watch Kazin and vampish Tufano pursued by "disembodied hands" or dancing around a never-ending kiss.

The evening's third premiere, Critical Mass, is the strangest and most enthralling of all. Choreographed and performed by Sara Hook and Parker, it shows a couple whose straight legs, powered by cranking hips, constantly threaten to trip them. Doggedly they dance, now and then tossing a leg high or throwing up their arms as if to solicit applause. Their ungainliness, their distracted air, and the fact that they rarely connect becomes all the more curious when juxtaposed to a recording of Stephen Foster's beautiful duet "Would'st Thou Be Gone, Love?" based on the morning scene from Romeo and Juliet.

We ache for these two without quite knowing why— he in a shirt bearing the name and number of Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers, she in a short, iridescent taffeta party dress. This is not a guy who scores myriad touchdowns, and she looks like a faculty wife trying not to lose control. They dazedly bop a bit to a Mozart song that makes their faces hurt, and finally launch a wacky bravura performance. Jigging around, making a lot of energetic little punching gestures, they sing— with amazing skill, considering— the "La ci darem la mano" duet from Don Giovanni. Who are these people? It doesn't matter. Us, maybe.

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