Dixie FunLee Shulman's creative wit and talent shine in "The Thinnest Woman with the Fewest Wrinkles Wins", a culturally poignant tour de force about female body issues in the 21st century.
By QUINN BATSON
Dance, like theater, sometimes uses a combination of confrontation,
humor and skill to create a transcendent experience that leaves the
audience feeling more human and more connected. Dixie Fun Dance
Theatre accomplished this at their Joyce Soho concert while
addressing the topic of being a woman in a way that made both men and
women see a little further.
"Beauty Pageant No. 1", the first of three beautiful anti-pageants,
came onstage swinging for blood, with well-named MC Velveeta
providing commentary. Every contestant was named Candy, in the way
men sometimes use "Betty" to strip women of name and humanity. Each
Candy represented a particular state of dysfunction, fad or blight,
from Candy Hoover promoting liposuction to Candy Knockers enthusing
about breast implants. Eating disorders, high heels and cosmetics
dependency were represented as well, for a total of eight Candies.
This piece was relentlessly over the top, an ice breaker and a ball
breaker, with the audience stuck between cringing and laughing. Captivatingly bold, the audience was locked in rapt attention every second, with layers of
costuming, props, music and a beauty-contestants-in-the-big-city
video that by itself was a clever and well-crafted work of art.
|Choreography by: Dixie FunLee Shulman.|
Directed by: Dixie FunLee Shulman.
Dancers: Jessica Bonenfant, Marsi Burns, Dana Cohen, M.D., Beth Anne Cole, Amber Corriston, Susan Gregory, Kelly Hayes, Priscilla Hernandez, Macushia Hill, Alice Klugherz, Dana Kotler, Carrie Malernee, Briana Masson, Johari Mayfield, Evelyn Mendez, Joan Eileen Murray, Nicole Poirier, Lisa M. Potter, Stacey Royce, Toni Silver, Cheryl L. Sutton, Kristina J. Walton, Katy Woitel.
Related links: Official site
155 Mercer (btw. Houston and Prince)
July 24-27, 2003
"Who's the Fairest of Them All" was a disturbing little piece of
mother/daughter love and the damage suffered with the introduction of
cultural "beauty" education. There is nothing subtle about Dixie Fun
Dance Theatre as when, for example, a hissing, mirror-wielding mother
chases her formerly self-satisfied pubescent daughter around the
stage with a full-length mirror. Heavy-handed, but never far from a
clever lyric or hilarious commentary. A pornographic Barbie and Ken
bit was especially deft.
"MTV Sex Goddess", the only pure dance piece in the show, gave the
audience a partial break from confrontational humor before
intermission. This was a really intriguing piece, because it took the
same performers from the scary "Beauty Pageant No. 1" and transformed
them into hard-body, bump-and-grinding MTV Dance Party babes. Of course, this was not just titillating, aggressive dance but another topic of culturally warped femininity to
address. These MTV Sex Goddesses, however, did not have a limitless supply of
erotic energy to keep the rolling cameras fed. Nope, these dancers got run
down and worn out and almost completely drained of life and soul in
the process of feeding the male fantasy of 'dancing girls' as deadpan, emotionless sex machines.|
In a totally candid side note, something from all this tripped a switch in this reviewer's head. I spent intermission "seeing" every single female member
of the audience as a unique, multifaceted person of the other sex
rather than as some sort of quantifiable product to be admired or
not; a moving and rare moment of clarity.
"Beauty Pageant No. 2" certainly reinforced this feeling, as a group of
ten women who, by most standards of our culture could be considered
undesirably heavy, introduced themselves by their best feature or most
flattering description, as in "great smile", "really smart", "tough
cookie", "talented" and "bootylicious". Women in this contest took
turns narrating bits of their life experience, often painful moments
relating to body image or body weight, delivered without self-pity
and presented matter-of-factly. Simply hearing some of the incredibly
cold words and actions directed to these women, usually by men,
served as more fresh water to the face, bringing the audience closer
to being awake and reinforcing a sense of human connectedness.
After a quirky little piece about painted fingernails, also
accompanied by a video, "Beauty Pageant No. 3" further cleared the
cultural fog, jumping into age and sexuality issues and showing that
if nothing else, aging distills a woman's core and often liberates
her. A highlight of this piece was the unexpectedly strong and
gorgeous voice of Susan Gregory as she burst into a Greek women's
Then, in a poignant nude solo, the undeniably not-your-American-feminine-ideal-stereotype Dixie FunLee Shulman herself mixed humor and movement skill to push the audience further down the path of female enlightenment. By the end of her solo,
neither her nakedness nor her heaviness were uncomfortable, a really
impressive feat of performing.
"Final Pageant" wrapped the show up wonderfully with every performer
onstage. The initial impression of this piece WAS that of a fashion
show, with every woman strutting onstage looking equally amazing. The
whole group then danced together, often in unison, and finished in a
square dance circle of togetherness.
|AUGUST 1, 2003|
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