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    Archive


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  •  REVIEW: FIRST WEEKENDS, OCTOBER 1999

    Cadence Callers Tony Silva, Fernando Maneca and Liam Clancy illustrate the joys of navy life. in First Weekends, October 1999
    "Cadence Callers" Tony Silva, Fernando Maneca and Liam Clancy illustrate the joys of navy life.

    Meet the artist

    Three "First Weekend" dance-and-chat performancess — starting with an autobiographical piece in which our hero, a sort of dancer's Spalding Gray, explores the choreographical question, "Why did I join the Navy?"

    By DAVID BOGOSLAW
    Offoffoff.com

    At times, it can be more satisfying to see a theater piece in the process of becoming rather than in its final form. When that is combined with the chance to discuss the work afterwards with its creators, the result is theater returned to its context, the community it serves. This is one of the lures of the Gowanus Arts Exchange's "First Weekend — New Dance and Discussion" fall series, which kicked off the season Oct. 1 and 2 with three short works choreographed by Shannon Hummel, Sharon Mansur and Liam Clancy. While only Hummel's work was billed as a work-in-progress, all three share a sense of expectant exploration.

      
    FIRST WEEKENDS, OCTOBER 1999
    Choreography by: Liam Clancy, Shannon Hummel, Sharon Mansur.
    Includes individual dances: "The Cadence Callers" by Liam Clancy; "Down A Small Road" by Shannon Hummel; "Lightfast" by Sharon Mansur
    Dancers: Liam Clancy, Fernando Maneca, Tony Silva, Shannon Hummel, Vaness Adato, Pele Bauch, Donna Costello, Sharon Mansur.
    Clancy's piece, "The Cadence Callers," is based on his own painful coming-of-age experiences in the U.S. Navy, depicted to alternately hilarious and thought-provoking effect. At half an hour the longest of the three works, it was also the most fully imagined, transcending its dance label and emerging as a work of total theater. Clancy is a kind of dancer's Spalding Gray and his loosely-structured monologues that punctuate the choreographed vignettes were the heart of the piece. His poker-faced droll sense of humor and endearing honesty enchant the audience even as they grapple with his central question to himself, "Why did I join the Navy?"

    Sharon Mansur. in First Weekends, October 1999  
    Sharon Mansur.
      
    That Mr. Clancy's monologues, which he has said he patterned on Gray's unscripted, outline style of storytelling, are so engaging in no way minimizes his considerable talent as a dancer and choreographer. He uses authentic military cadences ("I'm gonna be a killing man / A cutting man / The best I can / For Uncle Sam") and has created a winning ballet with toilet seats and scrub brushes, set to a Spike Jones recording. The Keystone Kops live!

    He is joined by two equally adept dancers, Fernando Maneca and Tony Silva (also collaborating in the choreography), whose darkly-nuanced interrogation tango is one of the most provocative moments of the evening. "The Cadence Callers" was a less personal, more broadly drawn parody and commentary on Navy life when first presented as part of the first New York Fringe Theater Festival two years ago. As seen at Gowanus in Brooklyn last weekend, it has found its center in the edgy persona of Mr. Clancy's narrator.

    Two excerpts from Shannon Hummel's longer work-in-progress, "Down a Small Road," explore the complexities of lifelong relationships among women living a hardscrabble existence in a remote rural community. To the mournful strains of a hillbilly banjo, the four women dancers each take their turn breaking from an upstage frieze of connecting and extended elbows and hips. This initial image conjured the blue-collar weariness in the paintings of Thomas Hart Benton. A recurring gesture is bending over with a stab of pain in the lower back. With small gesture and impressive conviction, Hummel?s dancers evoked the unadorned struggle of women trapped in lives not entirely of their own making.

      A key element of the First Weekend series is to let the creators and performers discuss their work with the audience after the performance. in First Weekends, October 1999
      A key element of the "First Weekend" series is to let the creators and performers discuss their work with the audience after the performance.
    The second excerpt movingly portrayed the hardships of waitresses working in a rural greasy spoon restaurant as they grind themselves to dull frustration repeating the drill of taking orders, cleaning tables and delivering food. The dancers each take their turn collapsing on the floor in bouts of uncontrolled hysterical laughter. Significantly, without undue affection or sentiment, each crumpled victim is in turn attended to by the others and helped back on her feet, to resume the daily struggle anew.

    The choreography reveals something carefully observed about nervous collapse and the bonds of friendship that perhaps are the only thing to prevent these women from succumbing to the horror of lives spent in isolated places. One waitress's final breakdown suggests a Charlie Chaplin gone berserk with repetitive-motion-induced twitches as in "Modern Times."

    Performing nearly in silence, Sharon Mansur brought a sprite's quick flashes of energy and invention to her solo improvisation-based "Lightfast." While something of a mystery from a narrative standpoint, "Lightfast" could be appreciated for Mansur's accomplishment as a dancer. With cropped dark hair and a piercing gaze, there was one moment when she suggested a female Franz Kafka, lost in imaginative flight. At another point, she was like a moth spurred to a frenzy in the light of a back porch on a summer's night.

    The Gowanus Arts Exchange is at 421 Fifth Avenue, off 8th Street in Park Slope, and strives to serve the multicultural communities of Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Downtown Brooklyn and Prospect Heights. Those who make the trip from Manhattan will not be turned away. If this kickoff weekend was an indication, there is great promise in subsequent offerings this fall season.

    OCTOBER 5, 1999
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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