Sleight of Byrd


Donald Byrd/the Group’s intermission-less “BYRD-lesque” (New Victory Theater, through March 17) revisits repertory works and adds the new Burlesque, linked by Steven Cuiffo’s cute anti-magic entr’actes. Each act tempts our disbelief, our dissection of its legerdemain; burlesque means both a form of vaudeville and a mocking treatment of something badly in need of deflation. Byrd, longtime citizen of Sardonia, bravely turns his brash, stiletto wit upon himself as a man of the theater, asking if, after the passage of time, there’s any there there. Works like Drastic Cuts and A Folk Dance, both from 1992, depict the stage as setting for extreme sport, the spotlight going to the most driven. In Burlesque—a cheesy, rollicking N’awlins scenario with Louis Armstrong tunes, glitter babes, and grinning guys in bowler hats and fedoras—the plastic, bulletproof smiles eventually fade, knees ache, and nerves fray. Beneath the dancers’ killer attitude, energy, and technical sophistication, there’s an intelligent if somewhat elusive, teasing perspective that hooks your attention.

Anita Cheng Dance’s Remap (Joyce Soho, February) featured noteworthy miniatures—dances no longer than an old pop radio hit. Compression works well for Cheng and her excellent performers. They may be as physically compact as Shih-Ling (Gail) Hsu, soloist in Land, who maintained graceful precision in the midst of Cheng’s experiments with stretch, isolation, and gravity. Or they may be robust—like Cary McWilliam and Christopher Williams, unbreakable duo of the turbulent Fauna, or Cheng herself, in Six of One a rubbery toy relishing its pose-ability and clean lines. Second Nature, the most engrossing of the longer works, belonged to Meg Harper, covered in pewter-colored fabric and clear plastic strips, mottled by a video projection, buffeted by the sounds of subways, jets, and Morse code. Upright, coolly gazing, she scraped the sky and dreamed the city’s life.

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