It’s a shame that shows like the amazing Foxhole, by Tanya Gagné and Karen Sherman (P.S. 122), don’t run long. By the time you e-mail friends, they’re gone for good. From its all-female West Side Story rumble to the badass roller derby scene to the bring-down-the-house conclusion of Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield,” Foxhole rocks. This funny, dyke-y, sexy girl gang has so much kinetic and psychokinetic energy that, in a touch of magical realism, crumpled love notes float on air; carnations and a frisky Con Ed worker’s crotch both spontaneously catch fire. Note to David Letterman: This is Babe City!
“I’m not a kitten stuck up a tree,” sings Ani DiFranco in “Not a Pretty Girl.” Neither are any of her male and female surrogates in Maura Nguyen Donohue’s DiFranco tribute, Righteous Babes (P.S. 122). Set to tapes of numerous DiFranco songs and spoken word performances, the dance scorches acres of thematic territory—crossing currents of race and gender, sweeping the dirt of American violence from under its heavy rug. DiFranco’s is a brazen, vulnerable voice; Donohue matches her with sumptuous craftsmanship and a caustic sense of humor, and the dancers give their all.
Scintillating dancers—particularly Jonathan Phelps, Dede LaBarre, and Zoie Morris Quinde—should bear no blame for Chet Walker’s Seductions (Marymount Manhattan Theater). A weak Broadway-style revue isolated in an Upper East Side venue, this “hopelessly romantic” show about relationships has no discernible structure. To quote another of its Paul Katz songs, “I look at you and there’s nothing behind what I see.” Some solos cook, but mannered ensemble work and corny lyrics wreck any potential seduction.
DanceBrazil’s Black Anastacia (Joyce Theater) boldly skewers both the Portuguese and the Catholic Church, which recently sainted the 17th-century African slave of its title. The new ballet by Carlos Dos Santos Jr., incorporating African, Afro-Brazilian, capoeira, and modern dance movement, elevates Anastacia as a model of resistance and cultural integrity, enacting an earnest, complex tale. Despite slow moments and most folks’ unfamiliarity with Brazilian history and Candomblé symbolism, the communication of this rebel’sterrible yet transformational story is crystal clear, thanks in part to its principal dancers—Sueli Ramos, Ágatha Oliveira, and Alex Brito.
The troupe’s other new work, lighthearted Ginga (by Edileusa Dos Santos and Jelon Vieira), ranges over Afro-Brazilian spirituality, festive Carnaval dance, and the ubiquitous, beloved capoeira with its smooth, dizzying moves. DanceBrazil is a juicy, expressive company presenting its culture with pride, gusto, and just plain guts. Similarly, the Bahian fire is well tended in “O Samba!” (Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning). Led by dancer/capoeirista Michael “Ombrinho” Goldstein, “O Samba!” kept an audience of school kids focused, entertained, and directly involved, teaching them good lessons for life amid all the giggling and shaking.
The brisk, handsomely staged opening of “DanceAfrica 2000” (BAM) made me think this year’s edition would not be overstuffed. But the second half stretched on, making the show almost three hours long. After a nice start with the talented Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BSRC) kids, Les Génies Noirs offered a gracious survey of traditional Benin dances that could have formed a concert in itself. The delightful Djoulé African, the 12 sensationally acrobatic hip-hop guys of Rennie Harris Puremovement, and BSRC all emphasized high-speed, driving movement, so it was difficult to watch the less punched-up, often repetitious dances of the Benin troupe. But Harris’s handstanding, head-spinning, dolphin-diving corps literally andrightly inherits the glory of Masai warriors.