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  •  REVIEW: DEJA DONNE

    Deja Donne

    Full frontal fantasy

    In a land beyond inhibition and restraint lies '"In Bella Copia", an effusive exploration of human desires by Deja Donne of the Czech Republic.

    By KARINNE KEITHLEY
    Offoffoff.com

    Occupying a theater both public and private, Deja Donne's latest work, "In Bella Copia", puts on display a set of impossible expectations, impossible performances. Here, life is beautiful. The girls are beautiful· Even the light poles and the costume racks are beautiful. "I can't give you anything but love," they sing in herky-jerky chorus near the top of the show. But they can give more, and they can take more too. The honesty, possibility and danger of their more extreme give-and-takes are tested throughout the show.

      
    DEJA DONNE
    Choreography by: Lenka Flory and Simone Sandroni.
    Dancers: Jan Benes, Lea Capkova, Jiri Malek, Masakko Noguchi, Teodora Popova, Simone Sandroni and Ondrej Vajsar.

    Related links: Official site
     SCHEDULE
    Dance Theater Workshop
    219 West 19th St.
    April 3-6, 2003

    'In Bella Copia,' translated as 'fair copy,' is a phrase meaning something like put your best foot forward — putting on display the most perfect and pleasing version of yourself. The piece asks, "What do you want to be?" and then permits that becoming. The dancers follow this idea primarily in terms of sexuality, but their transformations have echoes in other realms, not insignificantly reflecting on the context of theatrical performance, on expectations coming from either side of the light line.

    An MC (the frisky and wonderful Jan Benes) welcomes the audience repeatedly over the course of the show, employing the familiar MC's text from the Cabaret, with some small embellishments. "Willkomen, bienvenue, welcome· Welcome to the land of never-ending happiness. Tonight, we make the impossible possible· Set your imagination free·" What happens in the land of the free imagination? Inhibitions are the first to go. Hungers becomes cravings, become pixies, becomes weasels, become demons. Desire for one person easily translates to desire for another; it's the performance of desiring, it's the totality of wanting and the delirious self-awareness of permission that matters. Secret fantasies have come true. Egos loom large and aggressions stew.

    Deja Donne  
    Lea Capkova appears with Jiri Malek in a frame of light suggesting a wedding photograph, puts on a gorgeous orange dress and begins to indulge. The sequence begins with the undressing of Malek. Capkova's controlling excitement recalls a gremlin- preening, challenging, snarling, yelping with delight. She shoots a crazy tongue towards his chest. He shows his wares in a slightly confused mating dance. But he won't take off his underpants and the momentary disappointment is distracting. By the end of the section, she has gone from Malek to Masako Noguchi to a threesome with Ondrej Vajsar and Benes. "Kiss me," she demands, coaxing them into her fantasy. "Kiss me by the river." They carry her a foot forward.) "Kiss me by the waterfall." Another foot. "By the mountains." "By the fields." But it goes too far and she ends up distressed, extracting herself form the situation she created, revoking her permission, narrowly escaping something worse.

    All the elements that combine in this show have several lives and can be experienced theatrically or have metaphor extracted from them. (Though I think that the metaphors work precisely because the actual experience of each element in real time is so strong.) The lighting apparatus is the clearest example of this. Several movable lighting structures of various sizes make up the set. Like a high jump with lights hung from the bar, they create visual frames as well as obstructions. The dancers themselves manipulate the lights, wheeling them around, turning them on each other or focusing them away. Alternately tender and aggressive, these activities create the acts of being seen, of showing yourself, revealing someone else, interrogating, putting on the spot, encircling each other like animals, shedding light on the blossoming of each one's fantasy.

      Deja Donne
    Invariably the efflorescences are unbearable. Once the verdant fever of permission starts to spread, there's no button to shut it off and each finds out that they can't quite keep up with their fantasies as they turn savage. Weakness and tenderness do have a place in this game, after all.

    It's tenderness that most defines the ending, when Benes is chased up a pole by Vajsar and made to strip. He breaks down. In solidarity, the rest of the group takes off their clothes. Smiling and naked, they scoot back a little out of the light, sweetly comfortable in their precariousness. Noguchi holds the trump card, waiting until everyone else is undressed and then undoing her wig to reveal her real hair sprouting beneath in all its simplicity.

    There's nary a person in this group that you don't want to love by the end of it all. Perhaps it's the bravery of their exposure, but I left thinking that they just must be the kind of people I'd like to hang out with. Humane, not too slick or fashion-drenched, well-meaning, hard-working, kick-ass dancers.

    There is more than a simple duality here. Fantasy leads to more than the simple fact that you are not that cartoon of your imagined inner temptress. The performance works toward actual openness, actual revelation. When they end up naked, they really are. I think that the sincerity and humanity that underlies this work (and other work I've seen by this company) is defining. Their theater is a fluent hybrid of modes, languages, styles. But at the base it's really, really truthful. They took their initial premise to its full conclusion — sexy but also ugly and humbling — and were generous enough to put it on stage.

    APRIL 9, 2003
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Deja Donne:

  • in bella copia   from elena, Oct 1, 2005

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