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    Photo by Michael Branscom

    True love and famous lizards

    De Facto Dance's "CinderZilla" marries Cinderella and Godzilla in the church of improvisational dance.


    "Cinderzilla," De Facto Dance's totally charming contribution to the Age of the Hybrid, performed recently at WAX, takes literally what might be a movie pitch: "It's like Cinderella meets Godzilla... meets new dance." Not so much a meeting as a weaving, Cinderzilla takes the two stories and makes one out of them, producing a very odd destructive-romantic heroine, and a goofy new story.

    Company: De Facto Dance.
    Choreography by: De Facto Dance.
    Directed by: Kelly Donovan.
    Dancers: Robert Bingham, Kelly Donovan, Harriet Jastremsky, Akiko Bo Nishijima, Aggie Postman, Lee Shapley.
    Sound design by: Kelly Donovan, arranged with Seth Barger.
    Set design by: Lee Shapley, Kali Birdsall.
    Costumes by: Kali Birdsall.
    Lighting Design by Stephen Arnold

    Related links: Official site
    Williamsburg Arts Nexus
    205 North 7th St.
    Feb. 5-7, 2004

    The program spells out the combinatory scheme, listing the characters (StepLizards, CinderZilla, FairyGodScientist, StepMothra, and MechaPrince) and the scenes (Home, Getting Ready for the Ball, The Ball, After the Ball). Things progress in a fairly straight-forward narrative, with the occasional extended character-demonstration dance. The StepLizards (Harriet Jastremsky and AKiko Bo Nishijima) perform a prologue of sorts. Their heads poke up above the beautiful and simple set pieces (two iconic Japanese images made as freestanding billboards, later transformed into several separate rolling platforms). They roll out, and set the scene with dolls from Cinderella and Godzilla. CinderZilla herself (Aggie Postman) emerges from across the Edo, head rising up above the billboard, then slowly out in a beautifully realized amalgamation of romantic girl and slow, giant lizard. We meet the FairyGodScientist (limby Robert Bingham), dressed in white lab clothes and wielding a radio antenna as a magic wand, StepMothra (Kelly Donovan), living the costume dream of an eight year old moth enthusiast — ruffle skirted with a moth wing draped over one arm — and finally MechaPrince (Lee Shapley), good, pure, silver, a little clanky. People tend to make dashing, animÄ-type exits rolling out of the space through WAX's silver sliding doors and down a ramp into the lobby, in frozen, heroic positions, gliding swiftly out of the frame.

    Photo by Michael Branscom  
    De Facto Dance is a collaborative improvisational group, and the dancing thorugh the evening is improvised, though the structure and imagery is finely worked out, and the timing of things controlled by a continuous sound score (a fantastic collage by Kelly Donovan and Seth Barger which pulls as freely from the various related sources as the storyline does). When the improvisation serves the structure best, it is usually in a kind of working out of the sensory collision of elements. Postman's CinderZilla is the most effective of these, and the most hybridized. Her lizard lady is tenderly slow, mad, seemingly without peripheral vision, and yet a benevolent princess somehow. She's the type of performer that can draw you into the smallest details, and her specificity and unhurried humor amply reward your watching.

    The use of the platforms, the way that they frame the character stance, like action figures also produces a wonderful arena for the New Dance body. There is a strangeness to the thing, and they don't let go throughout the sense of awkward confluence of prince story, lizard story and animÄ stylings. For me, the performance was most effective in these barely moving images. There's a distinction that gets lost a few times between the conceit of the show, and plain old dancing about. Especially in the Ball scene, the dancing becomes a little repetitive, a little aimless.

    But these are small diversions from the overall success of the experiment, one full of the good feeling that emerges from the unbitter world of DIY. De Facto takes the look and pep of the cartoon world and brings it to the slower and more curious land of dance, to most enjoyable effect.

    FEBRUARY 13, 2004

    Reader comments on CinderZilla:

  • [no subject]   from J. Czulada, Feb 21, 2004
  • Fantastic!   from Dale DeLetis, Feb 25, 2004

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