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.
By QUINN BATSON
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.
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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