FranceOff! The Lower East Side takes on la France

Quel Surprise!

"Crossing the Line," a fall festival presented by the French Institute/Alliance Française, introduces cutting-edge French arts to New York through October 30. Usual festival attendees may have been slightly perplexed by the scampy evening put together by Terry Dean Bartlett and Katie Workum: one of their DanceOff! shows with a slight French accent. A grab bag of seven-minute works? Quelle bonne idée. Love one, and hope to see a longer version later. Dislike one, and it's soon over. A choreographer can faire des bêtises, and, however silly, an audience containing many of ses copains will still go "Woo! Woo!" It helps to play Edith Piaf during pauses.

Tant de mots! Viewers could admire Leïla Gaudin's accentless French and English in 7pm, while wishing she'd gotten a dramaturge to help make her clever idea work (a chocolate-binging pregnant woman wonders how her diet and her American husband's eating habits will influence le bébé). It helped to read in advance that Montreal choreographer Geneviéve Martel's slow arm thrusts and body circles (and their later jerky echoes) in her Mettle were inspired by Tourette's syndrome. Montreal-based Maria Kefirova included in the program a poem about her search for self, although her Apparences more interestingly raised issues about imposed identity (an anonymous painter with a Buddha smile outlined Kefirova's body on paper and painted a face on her breasts and belly). Without consulting the printed excerpt from Ben Greenman's writings, who could fully comprehend Beth Kurkjian's rage in Sylvie or Marie? (She was mostly annoyed at being killed in a car crash because her boyfriend failed to check an automotive problem.)

Francophiles might have been offended by Vanessa Walters's Danse en France, to music by Fischerspooner with 10 excellent dancers in Elise Martinelli's shiny, silver costumes working their way through robotic displays of kittenish sexiness and coolly elegant ballet exercises. But everyone guffawed during an over-the-top TV satire called Dance Thy Neighbor by Workum and Skyler Sullivan, and giggled during Zephir, a film by Nadine Helstroffer in which three women in monstrous, pink net gowns cluster in imitation of fruit tree blossoms blowing in the wind. On pouvait vraiment admirer two dances. In an excerpt from Rebecca Nettl-Fiol's Heart at Low Tide, to songs by Jacques Brel, Chun-Chen Chang and Esteban Donoso puzzled interestingly over a charged domestic situation, their physical predicaments later doubled by Justin Jacobs and Elizabeth Veile. Laura Peterson's Security is something of a downtown favorite. Four dancers scuttle warily about on hands and knees, trying to get into synchrony as quickly as their red-and-black-striped limbs can move. Christopher Hutchins and Katie Harris's hilarious and elegantly timed hesitation tango is both dogged and doggy. Oh là là!

 
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