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  •  REVIEW: BEN MUNISTERI

    Ben Munisteri

    Spun Sugar

    Ben Munisteri brings his sharp, sweet and exhilarating dances to the Altogether Different Festival.

    By LORI ORTIZ
    Offoffoff.com

    One of two newcomers to the Altogether Different Festival, Ben Munisteri arrives at the Joyce. Sunday's performance proved programmer Martin Wechsler's assessment that the company is ready to step onto its proscenium stage. Last spring Munisteri expressed gratitude for the chance to perform "Earthly Perch" as part of Whitney Atria's series "Home." The stage is a stone aggregate floor landscaped with full size palms and flanked by steps and banquettes. Their valiant effort was equally appreciated by an uncomfortable audience in folding chairs. Every seat had an obstructed view. I looked forward to seeing Munisteri and "Earthly Perch" at the Joyce.

      
    BEN MUNISTERI
    Lighting Designs: Kathy Kaufmann
    Choreography by: Ben Munisteri.
    Dancers: Lisa Wheeler, Christine McMillan, Eric Sean Fogel, Danica Holoviak, Kyle Lang, Devon Fitchett with guests David Leventhal and Larry Keigwin.
    Lighting Designs: Kathy Kaufmann
     SCHEDULE
    The Joyce
    175 Eighth Avenue
    Jan. 14-18, 2004

    Though it derives from his experience as a founding member of Doug Elkins Dance Company, Munisteri's Project emerges as his own. He quotes Mark Morris, and draws heavily on ballet and track sport. The company first performed in 1996 at Danspace. They were residents of Jacobs Pillow, Joyce Soho, and PS 122; they performed at fringe and downtown stages, colleges and colonies around the country. Often Munisteri began with a personal monologue intro.

    The Joyce audience was spared the casual intro, and got to know the personalities through dancing that was coolly expressive, on the mark, even and smart. Christine McMillan and David Leventhal could do no wrong. Kathy Kaufmann's amazing lighting, and Katherine McDowell's costumes created the dˇcor in which all the dances glistened.

    A full house was celebratory in its appreciation of Sunday's sparkling performance. The sprightly "Muse of Fire" opened the program. Munisteri is serious but there's an inadvertent humor to his sangfroid. Trophy running poses en l'air are like movie stills from the ubiquitous "Chariots of Fire." However, in this dance, they race to the more contemporary and off-beat score from "Run, Lola, Run." Their distorted movements are athleticism deconstructed. A deadpan ending unexpectedly exhilarates.


      
    Their distorted movements are athleticism deconstructed. A deadpan ending unexpectedly exhilarates.  

      
    The classical Athenian athletics continue in "Smash Through to Sunlight." David Leventhal and Larry Keigwin create a counterpoint of light and shadow against projected polygons. They take swigs from bottles of Poland Spring to sampled gurgles in Evren Celimli's score. The empties are flicked in a melodramatic aside that recalls Mark Morris. Ending in a sitting pose, they share the glory centered in a fan of sparkling spokes. Snippets of sampled sound recapitulate this criss-crossing narrative; its duality is its strength.

    In "Late Night Sugar Flight," dancers twist from grand battement into sexy pelvic rotations. Athletic runs peak in balletic leaps. Satie fades into Tjinder Singh's electronic afro-beat, with bookends of Donizetti.

    The costumes for "Earthly Perch" are varied blues with geometric patterns that suggest the movement. Sets of bare legs are yellow isosceles triangles that dangle from blue torsos supported at the hip. The dancers flock with low swoops in formation. There is a stately watch over a sleeping brood. The geometric poses and Cunningham-like aerial lines can suddenly collapse into a clamoring crawl. This most allusive dance is nevertheless the most elusive.

    Finally "Turbine Mines," to Vangelis' soundtrack from "Blade Runner," is a beam up to an off-world-colony, where we melt in slavish adoration. In polyamide costumes of interference colors, the sci-fi dancers hold their ground with deep organic pelvic rotations. Danica Holoviak makes an authoritative sweep in an expressive duet and caps off this heartwarming performance that brings the house to its feet.

    JANUARY 24, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Ben Munisteri:

  • Bravo cuz   from Joanne Munisteri, Aug 13, 2004

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