Theater archives

Stage, Camera, Page


Chris Yon and Justin Jones understand basic tenets of vaudeville: Offer variety, give prizes, leave ’em wanting more. Undergraduates at NYU’s Tisch dance department, the pair performed a military drill with Hoover uprights, vacuumed the carpet on which their “Medicine Show” (Gershwi Hotel, February 17 and March 17) unfolded, and mobilized friends and instructors for dance, theater, and musical turns. The tour de force was a reverse striptease, Venus Du Mylar, in which historical dancer Patricia Beaman rose from a slouch against the wall, tightened the laces on her 18th-century corset, and proceeded to don layer after layer of extravagant finery—panniers, petticoats, underskirt, overskirt, a bodice—while rowdy boys in the back hollered, “Put it on!” A chorus of 14 provided entr’acte tableaux. At under an hour, this delightful show provides more bang for the buck than many an uptown enterprise—and serves milk and cookies to boot. —Elizabeth Zimmer

Martha Graham’s legacy may be in disarray, but Isamu Noguchi’s wonderful set pieces for many of her dances endure, preserved both in his own Queens museum and in a new book by Robert Tracy, Spaces of the Mind (Limelight Editions, $25). The large-format paperback documents—in interviews, notes, and photos by 19 of dance’s top photographers—37 of his designs executed between 1926 and 1988, for Graham and others. Leafing through it reveals a fascinating portrait—rendered by an artist of Japanese extraction, now 97, working with eight choreographers on themes ranging from Greek tragedy to biblical allegory to pioneer romance—of American theater art at midcentury. —E.Z.

Ballet is by its nature artificial: Iron-muscled women try to pass as ethereal creatures by employing blocked satin shoes that make their every step a hoofbeat. Sustaining this illusion at close range is next to impossible—Lord knows, it’s hard even in an opera house. “Whimsy and Wonder,” by Julia Gleich’s troupe at the tiny Joyce Soho (January), took up the challenge and nearly met it, most successfully when most contemporary. To music by Alan Terricciano played live by violist Eve Wickert, Gleich danced in jazz sneakers. To a lush rendition of William Bolcom’s “Graceful Ghost Rag,” she and partner Jason Andrew pantomimed panic. To Sibelius, she deliberately exploited the percussive qualities of point shoes in a work for nine dancers. —E.Z.

Choreographers struggle to remain intriguing to audiences preoccupied with modern technology. Ameye’s multimedia performance (Joyce Soho, January) brought to mind screen savers and shadows. Humans worked with technology to create stunning images. In the new Traces, made with Cristina Ottolini, Sandy Chase daringly dove and hurdled to avoid spears of light and laser meteorites, as if caught in a life-size video game. Litsound, also new, poured out of the performers as naturally as an improvisation. Greta Panettieri’s husky, soulful voice glided up and down while Cristina Ottolini’s swimming arms and twisting body interpreted every note. In Video-D, Mei-Yin Ng squirmed toward a camera on the floor, which produced on a screen behind her a startling image of a woman apparently crawling on the edge of a cliff. Technological tricks sometimes substituted for the natural potential of dancers: Dancing beams in Turbine got laughs as they bounced to pounding rhythms, but their novelty wore off. —Arielle Freedberg

Who says modern dance languages are stuck in their creators’ bodies? At the New Victory early in February, Buglisi/Foreman Dance, a company of ex-Martha Graham soloists, brought a classic language back to the mainstream. From the opening image—Terese Capucilli as Sarah Bernhardt peeking out from the curtain in Jacqulyn Buglisi’s Against All Odds—the overwrought Graham worldview acquired some irony. Here was a grande dame nobly, yet mischievously, emoting to Rachmaninoff. Buglisi and Donlin Foreman, husband and wife, graft ironic delight onto Graham’s contractions, releases, back falls, and wheeling arabesques. Foreman’s Mean Ole’ World (one of two premieres) even inserted the heady mix of a live blues band into the Graham sensibility. The wonder of the season was the beautiful dancers this technique still produces; the triumph was two master choreographers making that beauty new again. —Elizabeth Kendall