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    Misnomer Dance Theater's Throw People in dancenOw07
    Photo by Steven Schreiber
    Misnomer Dance Theater's "Throw People"

    Best Way to End Summer

    DancenOw continues its reign as the premiere NYC downtown dance festival


    There's nothing like the DancenOw festival to whet the appetite for the Fall dance season. It feels like one last summer barbecue where everyone brings something they've actually made. This year's premise was to pay tribute to five choreographers who are celebrating at least their 10th anniversaries this year by giving them each an evening to bracket the performances of many other groups with both a new and an old piece from their own repertory.

    Choreography by: Nicholas Leichter, Dusan Tynek, Tara O'Con, Faye Driscoll, Lindsey and Jason Dietz Marchant, Adele Berne, Nicole Wolcott, Wallie Wolfgruber, Chris Elam, Andrea Miller, Robert Battle.
    Directed by: Robin Staff.
    Dancers: Nicholas Leichter, Dusan Tynek, Alexandra Berger, Matthew Dailey, Nicholas Duran, Eden Mazer, Elisa Osborne, Tara O'Con, Lily Baldwin, Katy Pyle, Nikki Zialcita, Jaci Baker, Adele Berne, Ashley Bifulco, Maggie Dewine, Naima Bigby Sullivan, Tiffany Sippel, Rachel McKinstry, Kendra Portier, Liz Riga, Joe Shepard, Nicole Wolcott, Wallie Wolfgruber, Chris Elam, Coco Karol, Luke Gutgsell, Mica Bernas, Andrea Miller, Francesca Romo, Yoon Ji Oh, Marlena Wolfe, Lauren Basco, Aaron Draper, Dawn Robinson, Naima Bigby Sullivan.
    Lighting design by: Julie Ana Dobo.
    Co-founder: Tamara Greenfield.
    Associate Producer: Sydney Skybetter.
    The first of these Base Camp evenings at DTW was hosted by nicholasleichterdance, with Nicholas Leichter himself kicking off the night with an old solo that doesn't get old. "Animal" is always an odd piece, with awkward falling and catching and various spasms of the face and body, conveying the struggle to keep everything together, sometimes in a struggle to keep something in and sometimes in a struggle to get something out, moving quickly from smooth and suave to cramped and creepy. Leichter pulls it off with a solid base, lightning changes and great timing.

    Dusan Tynek then showed his lushly red piece "Nympholepsy" that often looks like a painting in motion, with everyone wearing full red skirts, moving through pools of red light. The skirts serve as shawls, shrouds, vehicles to move across the stage and even as a way for a woman to grow to 12 feet tall. The movement is beautiful and classic, with smooth but inventive partnering and lifts.

    Tara Con's solo "Just Barley" was less impressive and felt incomplete. An intriguing head-on-the-ground-bent-over-at-the-waist opening position showcases her expressive back, but a very slow progression from head to hands and then fleetingly to standing ends up returning inexplicably to the opening position to end the piece. The sparse soundtrack begins in silence and progresses as slowly as the movement to small whispers and snippets of sound. This piece felt disappointing coming from someone who is an excellent mover.

    [Chris Elam's shows us] the beautiful world of a spasmodic half-autistic brute who cares  

    "Wow, Mom, Wow," Faye Driscoll's trio of happy girls, was contagiously entertaining, with the performers variously frolicking like kids, having a face-slapping contest, nibbling each other's necks, or shaking body parts uncontrollably, often moving around with one on the shoulders of the others.

    In "Inflatable Man, Evaporating Woman," the duo of Lindsey and Jason Dietz Marchant danced a beautifully soft piece in loose light clothes, she quick and he slow, to music that kept their swinging movements lively. The ending is a cute bit of theater that the two pull off smoothly, with a woman disappearing as she puts on a large dress.

    Another group of girls having fun without guys was the brighly colored sextet of "Everything's Just Wonderful,"dancing and cavorting to music by Lily Allen telling dense men creative lies to get them out of her face. There is popcorn-tossing, broom-sweeping and plenty of deft dancing in bright light.

    Nicole Wolcott's "Master Killer" after intermission kept up the brightly dark mood with 4 women and one guy dressed in 1970s porn outfits acting out b-movie gore, with the guy in the women's wrath. Throwing in some basic counting in German only enhanced the crazy vibe of this frenetic piece of mayhem.

    Wallie Wolfgruber's solo "Furchtet Euch Nicht" was another instance of a wonderful mover presenting a piece of choreography that didn't quite cohere. A cabaret-type chair got a little too much use in a piece danced mainly to German waltz music with moods ranging from sad to hopeful.

    Then the night got seriously twisted into by far the funniest piece of the evening, the aptly titled "Throw People," when Chris Elam brought Coco Karol and Luke Gutgsell into his weird Misnomer Dance Theater world of face-smushing pretzel-monkey contortions, in a story of an innocent boy and girl and an evil jealous ogre who will not allow the natural charms of a comely lad to lure away his aggressive little sylph. In the midst of grunting lifts and caveman carries, there is also good dancing and moments of sweetly awkward tenderness. This is the beautiful world of a spasmodic half-autistic brute who cares, and the ending is priceless and hilarious.

    "Snow," a quartet of small, quick women choreographed by Andrea Miller for Gallim Dance, seems promising as it opens, with really interesting synchronous side to side movements and hip-thrusting step-through jumps. It soon gets mired in "urgent" and "emergency" and "it's time" voiceovers that seem to be addressing the conflicts of the Middle East without really saying anything, and it devolves into a bit of a mess by the end. Much of the audience applauded enthusiastically anyway.

    Marlena Wolfe danced the ass off the Robert Battle's "Ella," a superfast solo of flying and falling and jazz moves to impressive Ella Fitzgerald scat jazz singing. Much of the piece has some mad puppeteer forcing the dancer into unexpected grimaces and body movements, all at breakneck speed, with the piece ending as the puppeteer unceremoniously stops and the "puppet" falls dramatically to the floor. It's certainly a flashy piece.

    nicholasleichterdance ended the evening with "Je de Vagues," a new company piece that also has a jazz feel, this one with slinky strings, clarinets and bells interspersed by tougher bits. Like his solo, this piece is full of starts and stops, fluidity and its opposite. I find the mix appealing and fresh, but to some it feels unfinished and rough. Leichter is developing a distinctive movement vocabulary with quick and smooth drops, soulful swinging and rugged, weighted floorwork.

    In all it was a typically wonderfully varied group of performances, really well assembled, the sort of evening that keeps us coming back for more each year.

    SEPTEMBER 14, 2007

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