Theater archives

Mix It Up


The postmodern world often overreaches itself dreaming up new mixtures, and ends up with, say, artichoke ice cream. Christopher Caines tries a more genial combination: a musicale with dancers. The atmosphere in the Construction Company studio suggests an evening of parlor music performed by an excellent pianist, Marija Ilic, and accomplished singers Alexandra Montano and Sarah Gibson. The composers, however, range from 17th- and 18th-century Italians through Schoenberg and Gershwin. And the choreography, sensitively keyed to the ambience of the songs and to the different performers, is intense and edgily eccentric.

To Antonio Caldara’s “Sebben, crudele,” Luciano Lazzarotto becomes a yearning Pierrot. To Fauré’s “Le Papillon et la Fleur” (dedicated to the late Edward Gorey), Ariane Anthony, swathed in black and hobbled by her draperies, is circled by the masked Caines, who induces a dark orgy of fluttering. Sally Hess plies her long legs but also licks her fingers over Giulio Caccini’s melting “Delizie contente.” Hess is elegant even when loopy, while Nicole Berger, especially in Alessandro Parisotti’s “Se tu m’ami,” is often at odds with herself—feet turned in, arms tightly folding, doing arabesques sautées one minute, tripping over her feet the next—and playful with Montano. (I admire Berger’s honest response to the songs; the others sometimes dramatize them in a generalized way.)

Caines enjoys small mysteries. To no music, Rika Burnham enters, wearing a dowdy dress and hat and carrying a suitcase. With Caines, this visitor enacts a detailed memory of a car trip and the burial of jewelry. When Hess touches Caines with a finger during a Schoenberg song, he shivers. Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” and Handel’s “Oh Sleep, why dost thou leave me?” (sung eloquently by Gibson) merge in an enigmatic scenario; Burnham is not simply awakened but restored to life. The evening is less about dancing to music than about dancing through music.

While an enthusiastic audience watches Stanley Love’s dancers live at the Soho gallery Location 1, the performance is being “streamed” at How “now” can you get? Also up to the postmodern minute is Love’s work. He mines clichés of show dancing and soulful ballads, whips them into shape with chops learned at Julliard, and ends up with a hybrid in which irony only partially mocks his affection for popular styles.

Sometimes almost all 11 dancers occupy a wide, shallow strip of floor. Love keeps them evenly spaced, and they aim their energetic dancing, gestures, and facial takes at us. Especially in Supremes Sweet, they give the impression of being in a nightclub number that’s running amok. Men and women alike wear black gloves and blue evening gowns dripping with sequins. And, yes, they hug themselves in an access of “Ooh, I’m so sexy!” and throw up their arms to indicate “Here I am, Miss Marvelous!” They underscore the Supremes’ words (in a duet to “Stop in the Name of Love,” A. Apostol and Lauri Hogan not only play traffic cop, they shape hearts with their fingers). Matthew Mohr as the DJ gives the illusion of stopping numbers in the middle. In the final reprise of “I Hear a Symphony,” Apostol, Hogan, and Love endeavor 10 times to get past “You’re giving me a chill now.” Love himself subverts both costume and club style with a freakout of cartwheels and frantic failed virtuosity.

In the more varied 20, the musical selections range from a snippet of Mozart’s Requiem to Junior Vasquez, with lashings of Bette Midler and Judy Garland. Here Love plays with counterpoint and different facings; stillness dialogues with almost aerobic motion. A trio whips itself into abandon. A quintet bursts into a fine arrangement of strenuous jumps and turns.

Love aims to reveal the private feelings the songs induce, but the three works he shows also evoke the life of the performer, or performance as life. In Proud Mary, a powerful solo to Ike and Tina Turner songs, Alan Eto, wearing a dress, repeatedly applies lipstick, looks around expectantly, and cringes. Whether he’s mincing on tiptoe, clutching the wall, removing garments, confronting the audience, or walking toward a spotlight while lying on his side, his actions are bravely, pathetically, askew.

Love often goes over the top or succumbs to camp, but he’s definitely a craftsman groping his way to art—whatever that now is.

Peter Martins’s new Todo Buenos Aires is to be danced by the New York City Ballet again tonight and Friday, so this is a good time to correct my earlier error. The ballet’s music is by Astor Piazzolla. John Adams arranged it.