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    Clare Byrne and Amy Larimer are the Horny Girls in Horny Girls + Sara Juli
    Clare Byrne and Amy Larimer are the Horny Girls

    On lizard rights and shadow artists

    The Horny Girls share an evening with Sara Juli in the close quarters of Dixon Place.


    Watching shows at Dixon Place is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing to see performers so close you can see their minds working, but the curse of it is the claustrophia, with dancers straining not to fly into the audience and audience members trying not to sit on top of each other. Sometimes the tension sets up comic relief, and sometimes it just constricts the performance. The Horny Girls and Sara Juli managed to beat the space and get the audience laughing on St. Patrick's Day.

    Choreography by: Clare Byrne, Amy Larimer (The Horny Girls) and Sara Juli.
    Dancers: Clare Byrne, Amy Larimer (The Horny Girls) and Sara Juli.
    Dixon Place
    309 E. 26th St.
    March 17-18, 2005

    The Horny Girls, aka Clare Byrne and Amy Larimer, are definitely onto something with their aging-lizards-in-the-entertainment-industry concept. Their first performance last year in a now-demolished space on 42nd Street was a theater/film masterpiece. Though the same piece led off the night at Dixon Place, it suffered a bit for lack of space.

    The piece is a mock TV interview appearance with a goofily exuberant host on a public-access cable channel, played convincingly by Ritch Duncan. The Girls are lizards, and their lizardness is hilariously accurate, especially in their entrance, as they obliviously climb over each other and then freeze, tongues testing the air. Their combination of languid pauses and inexplicably quick movements in getting to their chairs to start the interview is enough to make the audience a bit startled when they actually begin speaking, calmly and coherently, to raise the issue of anti-lizard discrimination in the entertainment industry. Old film clips that the host insists on playing from their lizard-zilla monster movies don't interest them; they come with their own clips showing the range of their work, from 1960s Westerns to a documentary that they use to illustrate their unsung influence on the ballet dancers of George Balanchine's company, complete with an interview of Balanchine whining about the pesky lizards who were always trying to introduce turned-in movements to ballet. These video pieces by Peggy O'Brien and Steve Rosenthal are scary good.

    Who would have thought that a drafty theater and hot stage lights could conspire to bring down the career of an aspiring lizard dancer?  

    Sara Juli then gave her unique tortured monologue and simultaneous dissection of the internal conflicts and thought processes of a performer on stage. When this combination is seamless, it is irresistable, as in her performance at last year's WAX tribute. Again, the tiny space of Dixon Place robbed Juli of the expansive use of space that she is best with and gave the piece more tension than it needs, but the piece, called Shadow Artist, has good bones and still came off pretty well. It is impossible as an audience member to know how much of the piece is improvised and how much is set beforehand, which gives it an anxious energy even on repeated viewings. Her fearless audience intrusions, for example, are different interactions each time and give the piece much of its edgy immediacy and comic brilliance.

    For the Horny Girls' finale, they gave us, via a lesson on lizards for schoolchildren at a public library, their twisted history with Jerome Robbins and illustrated some of the pitfalls of being a cold-blooded lizard in the warm-blooded dance theater world. Who would have thought that a drafty theater and hot stage lights could conspire to bring down the career of an aspiring lizard dancer? The heat of the stagelights excited one lizard enough to eat a fellow castmember, so the story goes, ending the lizards' welcome in Mr. Robbins' production and forever altering the storyline of West Side Story. The ensuing West Side Story lizard spinoff dance was the highlight of the evening.

    Dixon Place remains a fertile site for dance and theater despite its cramped quarters. With some help from early participants The Blue Man Group and generous theatergoers to its ongoing Capital Campaign drive, Dixon Place plans to move soon into a more comfortable space. See for more information. The Horny Girls and Sara Juli should also be showing up in more comfortable spaces. There will be some lizard activity in the upcoming Danceoff! event at P.S. 122, and Sara Juli should be generating laughs at some NYC venue in the near future.

    APRIL 19, 2005

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