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    "Bliss" a blast

    Nicholas Leichter expands on his earlier work with sizzling new dancers and dances in "Bliss."


    The 92nd Street Y has smartly teamed up with The Duke theater on 42nd Street to bring avante-garde movement to the masses. Now in its second year, the successful partnership does a great service to artists who rarely get the exposure they deserve.

    Directed by: Nicholas Leichter.
    Dancers: Khalda Logan, Daniel Clifton, Amy Larimer, Will Rawls, Nicholas Leichter, Aaron Draper, Stephanie Liapis.

    Related links: Official site
    92nd on 42nd
    The 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Project at The Duke
    229 W 42 St.
    Feb 13-17, 2002

    And what better than to present a choreographer who has made it his mission to make contemporary dance more accessible? Normally marginalized, modern dance takes Broadway by storm with "Bliss," the latest incarnation of the exquisitely talented Nicholas Leichter. Featuring 90 minutes of sizzling hot choreography that rivals other prominent dance shows such as "Contact," at $20 a pop, "Bliss" may well be the best buy on Broadway.

    Three new dancers make their New York debut with the company and their thorough ability to absorb Leichter's technically demanding choreography and vibrant flare is impressive. Most notable is Khalda Logan, a powerhouse performer who joins Daniel Clifton, Amy Larimer, Will Rawls, and Leichter in a reprise of "Free the Angels," which premiered at The Flea last June. With duets and groups shifting seamlessly one to another, "Angels" slinks and grooves to Stevie Wonder's infectious vibe. The dancers are internal and sensuous as they meander sublimely over a striking, squiggly floor projection. Lighting designer Eric Bruce channels Cy Twombly with his unique gobo choice that adds a decidedly dynamic visual complement to the swirling choreography.

    Another newcomer, Aaron Draper, slides effortlessly into the interlocked sequences of the male quartet "UnderTow." Awash in blue-green light, the black-skirted men writhe and curl like elastic seahorses tangoing through an aquatic underworld. Darkly mesmerizing, the prancing and gestures emote an intense yearning that matches the intensity of Bjork's eerie soundscape. Leichter, Rawls and Clifton complete the quirky foursome that slinks surreal into Bruce's tangled seaweed of light.

    "Animal," Leichter's beloved solo first shown in 1997, has the confident fit of a well-loved pair of jeans. Leichter slips into this old friend with ease, totally comfortable, unpretentious, yet physically defined and musically precise. Set to Everything But the Girl, "Animal" is an emotional slot-machine that Leichter commandeers with masterful expressive skill. Frustration, fear, anguish and arousal are just a few of the faces that flicker past before the mania drains away and we are left with simply Leichter himself. Exposure seems like agony while struggling to find his voice, style and place; Animal is the raw unveiling of Leichter's ongoing journey as artist and person.

    Finally, the last new addition, Stephanie Liapis, graces the stage in Leichter's newest work, "Bliss." Stationary searchlights provide a stark, "X-Files" feel which contrasts with the dancers slow, caring interactions at the start. The entire company minus Leichter make up the sparkling ensemble who later throw themselves passionately with sexy abandon into the delectable kineticism that is sheer "Bliss."

    FEBRUARY 16, 2002

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