No A/C, a broken mic, an audience of 10 sweating and fanning. Yet the New York Performing Arts Company soldiered on. What an ironically generic name for veteran ethnic dancers of well-honed, distinctive skill, each draped in a succession of unique and glorious costumes. “Caravan to Cairo: Dances of North Africa and the Middle East” featured 11 works by choreographer Samara—a travelogue in movement (absolutely fabulous) and words (sometimes too many). Choice bits included the Ouled Nail duet performed by Morgiana and Samara—curbing her Beverly Sills smile to reflect the no-nonsense attitude of these Algerian dancing women—and The Djinn of the Feather Cloak, a nicely understated interpretation of a Moroccan folktale. Reyna and Andrea highlighted the elegantly giddy Raks Khaleegi, a flowing, twirling social dance with which Saudi women entertain one another.
The simple charm of Smoke, by Peter Golightly’s Kyoto-based KyoRyuKan Theater Company was enhanced by the tickling performances of its two female leads. In this 45-minute dance-drama, Sumie Sagami and Fumio Toyoda were alternately merry and dejected ghosts in costumes fashioned from discarded newspapers. Sagami’s moves were blunt, angular, and childlike, posing, one guessed, the modern-dance counterpart to rival Toyoda’s specialty—samples of a smoothly executed ballet barre. Each sought to squelch the other’s ebullience, to steal her moment in the spotlight. Competition grew increasingly mean until, sure enough, paper was shredded. Golightly played the snub-winged Driver sent in, at the rise of a full, green moon, to cart these gals off to heaven, but they weren’t having it. The small crowd seemed uncertain that the end was really The End, but at the delirious Fringe, less is often so much more.