Theater archives

Strong Stuff


Karl Anderson/SLAMFEST’s “Submerging Artist” (WAX, July) established Anderson as an original, engaging thinker who relishes questions and distrusts pat answers. In his beautiful solo, Embracing Nothingness, set to guttural chants, he alternated periods of rest and balance with spurts of expansive, acrobatic action—spinning, flipping, dive-bombing—as if his Inner Selves struggled to coexist. You and your Crack Baby better get your shit together because we have a show—a duet of pure and impure mischief with terrific Wendy Blum in the role Leslie Derrick created for herself—drew on every technical and comedic strength the grappling partners had. In MALEMADE, a satire on the dance world and other sexist hierarchies, Ron Mesa was hilarious as a petulant king coping badly as four women he considers his pets became unpredictable and cartoonishly rebellious.

When you work with volatile materials—lynching as reality and metaphor, women hidden by burqas, or memories of incest, for instance—you must be clear-eyed and organized. Trebien Pollard of Skeleton Dance Project (Joyce Soho, July) certainly is, and his vision—influenced by Graham, Ailey, Ronald K. Brown, club dancing, and martial arts—rarely falters. But each dance in his “Stories Told” suite stretched to epic length, as if his spiritual passion would shatter a smaller vessel. His mission? Nothing less than the reclamation of abused, lost souls. The excellent cast included Darrell Jones (in The Cries of the Prophets, wearing a bulging noose’s knot like a hideous tie, writhing and straining, a homicide chalk outline come to life) and Leslie Myers (in The Gospel of a Swan) trying out heavy wings despite all odds. —Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Sarah Skaggs clothes her ensemble in coolly contemporary white shirts and black pants, but excerpts from her Higher Ground (Jacob’s Pillow, July) resemble a mosaic assembled from a shattered time line. The dancers cross their arms, evoking Egyptian mummies; make courtly bows; casually peel off invisible T-shirts. In Get Out of the House, transferred from the city’s Roosevelt Park to a more conventional stage setting, Eric Dunlap, Jae Gruenke, Jeremy Laverdure, Brittany Reese, and the abyss-risking Kathi McGowan skim across the floor, attack with tae-bo kicks, stretch through sculptural yoga asanas, and use their arms as cranks to wheel their torsos around. Heaven and hellfire struggle for supremacy in Skaggs’s brief Prelude for Salome; to the rants of an evangelist, she collapses backward, grasping at the air. In her exhilarating Moondog Solos, Skaggs whips energy beyond her slight frame; it seems to batter the space around her until she stands with arms stretched like an acolyte of Leni Riefenstahl. Here, nothing is extraneous; every move is full-throttle.

“Martha @ the Pillow” (August) was a posthumous return for the gal who got her start in Ruth St. Denis’s cigar-box fantasies. Anyone can wear false eyelashes and a bowling-ball-size chignon; Richard Move embodies an archetype. As a drag show turned dance-history lecture, “Martha @” could not have gathered a more knowledgeable and appreciative audience for its spot-on “Shrink Lits” distillations of Cave of the Heart, Night Journey, and Lamentation. (Deborah Goodman was especially good demonstrating suitably anguished contractions; Reid Hutchins is a heavenly hunk.) Being larger than an ordinary woman translates neatly as larger-than-life—but one wishes Move hadn’t been so pious. At the Pillow, his dulcet-pitched comments were connect-the-dots linear when oracular would have been funnier. Only his lockjawed double takes—during a conversation in which Yvonne Rainer (who seems to be impersonating David Byrne) patiently tried to explain her own work—were sufficiently comic. Graham may have been constitutionally incapable of sharing the spotlight; Move opens his door to other artists. Stuart Hodes, dapper in impeccable white, has lost nothing of his power—precise small gestures such as wagging a finger and plucking a fragrant flower loomed large in White Knight, Black Knight, created with his daughter Catherine and here performed with Jennifer Conley. Rainer’s Three Seascapes, last seen in 1962, featured Patricia Hoffbauer jogging to Rachmaninoff and later lolling with stoned ease to a painful La Monte Young score, which returned Rainer to her rebellious context. Stacy Dawson gave a lusciously creepy performance in the strobe-cued Host, in which a girl in a doll’s pinafore was partnered by the corpse—or maybe the ghost—of an antlered deer. Chet Walker’s slight, Fosse-style Live and Laugh at It All got a sinister reading from Leon Le and a suave one from Robert McFarland, with Walker himself the “what me worry” leader of the pack. —Debra Cash