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    2017-2018 reviews:


      Side Show
    Of Like Mind

    Longtime friends and collaborators, Clare Byrne & Nicholas Leichter share special kinetic chemistry in "Side Show", an exceptional array of solos and duets.


    Nicholas Leichter and Clare Byrne are apparently one brain sharing two bodies. There seems to be no better explanation for this duo's staggering synchronicity. In the seven pieces of their Symphony Space debut "SideShow", when they aren't dancing one of three duets, they are performing each other's solos, either literally or figuratively.

    Company: nicholasleichterdance.
    Choreography by: Clare Byrne & Nicholas Leichter.
    Dancers: Clare Byrne & Nicholas Leichter.

    Related links: Official site
    Symphony Space
    2537 Broadway @ 95th St.
    April 10-11, 2003

    When they aren't dancing together, each has his/her own eponymous dance company. The opening duet, "Sugar Cain", was originally choreographed for two of Clare Byrne's dancers, but there is such symmetry between Byrne and Leichter here that it is hard to believe they haven't been dancing this piece together for years. Over a bed of Tchaikovsky music, strange but beautiful stops and starts bring the two 100 feet backward down a ramp to the stage in Egyptian/bird poses. After an initial round of beautifully-synched turning phrases that give some indication of their huge technical ability, the piece slowly devolves into quirky absurdity, as a toe-sucking bird theme reaches its peak with a very Lawrence of Arabia musical moment, followed by a flopping fish ending.

    "Way Up High," choreographed by Byrne and performed by Leichter, shows off more technical firepower, with beautifully soft landings and exquisite extension combined with quicker-than-cat movements, all to Harburg and Arlen music sung by Aretha Franklin.

    "Baby Doll," choreographed by Leichter and performed by Byrne, turns the record over. To music by Mariah Carey with Bone, Thugs and Harmony, Byrne enters dressed like a Whitney Houston meltdown in a slightly baggy men's suit and loose tie with bright red smeared lipstick and proceeds to out-hiphop Usher's backup dancers. Then she becomes Usher on crack, or perhaps a nice post-crack angel dust high, muttering to herself and shivering and, as the drama builds, removing not her shirt but her pants. It's disturbed, disturbing and mesmerizing, all at the same time.

    "Prologue" provides a duet respite, in feather-fringed white tutus and silver lame halter tops. This may be their signature piece, one they danced together often when Byrne was part of Leichter's dance company. It is a sweet and pretty piece, perhaps summed up as Lauryn Hill sings "I tell you leave when I mean stay." It is still fully quirky, as the costumes suggest, but there is a wonderful connection between the two, culminating in a tender and spasmodic ending to the words "the sweetest thing I know."

    "B.A.P." is Leichter dancing Leichter, arresting and disturbing. Volatile and vulnerable define this piece, with movement running the gamut from supercharged club-kid dancing to drunk-in-the-gutter rolling and slumping. There is a progression from neat denim and t-shirt kid, full of energy, to sleaze-glam fur coat and hat man, degenerate and scary, young Michael Jackson to old Dennis Rodman. The lyrics that come to mind from this piece are Mary J. Blige singing "I don't understand why you can't be my man." To underscore the comic tragedy or tragic comedy, degenerate man pulls out his apparently real gun to end the piece, leaving the audience to ponder whether a gun is protection, threat or impending suicide.

    "Attendant", 'Wet Blue' Byrne dancing Clare Byrne, is another alcohol-soaked drama, performed to gospel music in a Twenties' speakeasy setting. This is the story of a drunk with "the whole world in his hands," danced gymnastically with a silent folding metal chair. Though it sounds dismal, this, too, is arresting dancing, with sheer quickness and unpredictability, and considerable skill.

    "Coalesce", the well-named duet that ends the show, is a sparse and beautiful piece. Accompanied initially only by the live upright bass of John Sullivan, this piece has some amazing smooth lifts and intertwined spins, very intricate but seemingly effortless. Here are two gentle rag dolls, flopping and spinning together, embodying the words of Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack — "the closer I get to you the more you make me see."

    Clare Byrne and Nicholas Leichter together are a rare treat.

    APRIL 11, 2003

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