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      Paul Matteson and Friends
      Photo by Bob Handelman
    Among friends

    Paul Matteson and Friends offer up an evening of dances sometimes manic, sometimes sad, always vibrantly present.


    Paul Matteson and Friends put together a dynamically fun, funny and sad show in two solos and a duet for the Thalia Dance series at Symphony Space. To say the movement-with-narrative style felt like that of David Dorfman would be stating the obvious, but these three current Dorfman performers distilled the style well to dance really strong, personal pieces.

    Choreography by: Paul Matteson, Jennifer Nugent, Joe Poulson, Peter Schmitz.
    Dancers: Paul Matteson, Joseph Poulson, Jennifer Nugent, Heather McArdle.
    Music by: Allison Leyton-Brown and Christopher Lancaster.
    Symphony Space
    2537 Broadway @ 95th St.
    April 29-30, 2004

    "Rustytime" was Joe Poulson's solo of name-calling. With Heather McArdle reading and reciting a long, slowly degrading list of names, nicknames, insults and vile insults, Poulson mostly imperturbably danced and floorworked through a refreshingly goofy gamut of movements including some semitap and hoofer/vaudeville stuff that worked well with his impressive and flopping floorwork. Sporadically, a name would stick and wound, and Poulson would repeat it quizically — "Piggy? Piggy?!" — and would respond with fuller and fuller versions of his proper name, trying to regain some respect and composure. Sweetly, toward the end, the narrator/tormentor threw in "I love you, little piggy" and "Be mine, bubblebutt", and after a near-lethal final dose of really corrosive words seemingly grinded him into the floor, Poulson got up and calmly countered with "Joseph Albert Edward Poulson the Third."

    "Step Touch" was a terrific duet by Paul Matteson and Jennifer Nugent, with increasingly comic music accompaniment by pianist Allison Leyton-Brown and cellist Christopher Lancaster. This piece built really well from a quiet, slow opening to a completely over-the-top, manic ending. With almost full-time close partnering and lifts by both dancers — Matteson's stretching, diving/flying bird pose while Nugent patiently held him aloft was an audience favorite — the music gradually became an absurd version of the song "Close to You", and as the musicians began to sing, the movement onstage reached new heights of silliness, with Matteson tilting Nugent's head toward the floor in dangerous-looking collapsing lifts and Nugent catching a wildly leaping Matteson in her arms as if he were a little kid. The ending was really a progression of endings, each one only a pause in the escalation of insanity, with a maniacally shouted countdown, or countup, of "ten more times...twenty more times...FORTY more times", like a Broadway musical rehearsal gone out of control. Serious fun.

      Matteson's stretching, diving/flying bird pose while Nugent patiently held him aloft was an audience favorite.
    After a well-deserved intermission, Matteson came out to pull off a powerful thirty-minute solo, something very few people should even attempt. Choreographed by Peter Schmitz and called "I Simply Live Now", this piece charted the course of some catastrophic illness or accident in a poetically disjointed narrative of remembered quotes and different people's versions of how things were. A disturbing musical bed of soft Schubert string pieces overlaid with anguished shouted rock lyrics from The Tindersticks and The Used really set off the softly springing, limping, falling movements and the bits of narrative. After a short blackout that no one mistook for the end and a spoken "Oh no, I can't stand it. Wait a minute.", Matteson shed his jacket and acquired a pair of crutches, for crutchwork that was impressive and scary, on the verge of control sometimes. Then, after Matteson shed the crutches and put his jacket back on, the piece quietly moved toward the end with a haunting, soft piano and beautiful, soulful German male singer adding even more emotional presence. ""I'm feeling fine," is what he said whenever people asked" portended the end. As the movement got slower and ended on the floor more often, the last quote before blackout really stuck: ""I know this sounds crazy, but sometimes I think this is a fantastic experience," he said shyly."

    Wonderful presence and performances by all made this a great night of dance.

    MAY 19, 2004

    Reader comments on Paul Matteson and Friends:

  • hey paul   from stacey, Mar 27, 2008
  • Paul rocks!!   from Fernanda Calvo, Mar 27, 2008
  • chocolate chip cookies   from Sue Hartman, Mar 26, 2009

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