|"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
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
Hummel's work was billed as a work-in-progress, all three share a sense of
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
his loosely-structured monologues that punctuate the choreographed vignettes
were the heart of the piece. His poker-faced droll sense of humor and
honesty enchant the audience even as they grapple with his central question to
himself, "Why did I join the Navy?"
|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.
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!
|Sharon Mansur.|| |
He is joined by two equally adept dancers, Fernando Maneca and Tony Silva (also
collaborating in the choreography), whose darkly-nuanced interrogation
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.
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.
| ||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 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
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|
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