Culture Clubs

Wa Zu (La MaMa, through September 29) is the latest offering from Slant, the three-man performance ensemble—Richard Ebihara, Wayland Quintero, and Perry Young—who revived Big Dicks Asian Men last season. In Wa Zu the three New Yorkers take an unintended journey through southwest China, their flight having been mysteriously diverted from Little Rock, Arkansas, where they're slated to perform for Ethnic Americans Day. They tear around the stage, swing Tarzan-style from the rafters, and cavort in their boxers, but the antics falter. Many of the scenes feel like Saturday Night Liveskits, full of gross, raunchy jokes that last too long. (Do we really need to see poop puppeted?) The show tries to make some serious points about cultural tourism and notions of "authenticity," but they come off half-cocked and out of place. Footage of Slant's trip to China, sponsored by a performance study grant, closed the evening; I left thinking that these guys had a great time over their summer vacation. —Shanti Crawford


That infamous whole-note rest—the entirety of John Cage's 4'33" symphony—hung in the air like Warhol's Silver Clouds, which studded the black drop as decor. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company's EVENT (Evening Stars, September 1) struck tableaux both epic and pedestrian—Crossing the Delaware meets Crossing Delancey. Suddenly full-bore, a kinetic excerpt from 1998's Scenario set a pace that played like a favorite CD on shuffle. Another track found Cedric Andrieux standing behind Jennifer Googans while she extended her arms like a jet. Andrieux's hand—both pivot and support—snaked through and pointed skyward as they both bent from the hip in a duet from 1986's videodance Points in Space.

Christian Marclay and Takehisa Kosugi created the soundscape—sirens, online bleeps, and Ella's "I Love Paris"—huddled against an insistent drizzle beneath a plastic tarp. Josh Johnson's modulated lighting occasionally hit the hot zone—an already pink-suited company doesn't need french-fry incandescence—but that's small potatoes when things end as serenely as they've begun. Off-sync leaps from 1983's Roaratorio—the bottom of a foot planted against the opposing knee, the company hanging in the air like giant fours—answered Cunningham's program koan: "Not so much an evening of dances as the experience of dance." Tony Phillips


As autumn approaches, dancers get as busy as squirrels. An annual fete, launched in 1995 as Dancenow Downtown, traditionally heralds the new season: Artists and troupes stoke and store audience interest for the long, competitive haul. Disrupted by last year's terrorist attacks, the series rebounded with more diverse venues—hence its revised, inclusive name, dancenow/NYC. One Joyce Soho evening featured fine turns by Laila Sales and Karen L. Love among short works and excerpts by seven other dancemakers. Sales embodied her solo Sincerely/L with an unfussy eloquence, contrasting springy, lyrical flow with sharp accents against the backdrop of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes." She captured the paradoxical way his song's formal cadences and clear, earnest voice render a reticent lover's self-revealing message. Love's abstract quintet, In the Belly, set to wonderful live percussion by Glen Fitten and Todd Isler, lacked only a decisive ending. The ensemble pulsed with vibrant energy, all supple movements radiating, yes, from the belly, which the East values more highly than the heart. —Eva Yaa Asantewaa

 
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