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      Domingo Estrada, Jr. (big dog) and Rory Lyndon in WeDOGS
      Photo by Andre Costantini
      Domingo Estrada, Jr. (big dog) and Rory Lyndon
    A Night for the Dogs

    WeDOGS explores our canine part


    It's hard to know what to make of an evening-length dance concert about dogs. It would be easy to dismiss WeDOGS as choreographic folly, and some of it is, but the moments that work and the appreciation and laughter of the audience make it something more.

    Give choreographer Mary Seidman credit for finding good dancers, translating the tics and foibles of dogs to human bodies, and then fully exploring the possibilities. The first duet has owner and pet swapping into and out of master/obeyer and human/dog roles, with moments of slightly disturbing sexually ambiguous play; funny, totally unexpected and seamlessly performed by Samantha Ernst and Don Friedewald. Live keyboard music by Murray Weinstock subtly perks up this piece as well. The following solo by Domingo Estrada, Jr. is also really fresh and buoyant, though the dog-suit-under-work-drag-clothes already hints at pushing the dog-human comparisons a little too hard. The addition of a second and then a third dog in the next two sections takes things down a couple notches and flirts with inexplicable dumbness.

    Choreography by: Mary Seidman.
    Dancers: Raphael Boumaila, Samantha Ernst, Katie Dorn, Domingo Estrada, Jr., Don Friedewald, Maria Garvey, Seth Miner, Dagmar Spain, Alice White
    Child Dancers: Turiya Hamlet Adkins, Akiya N. Henry, Zoe Hockenberry, Rory Lyndon, Nic Pagano, Abby Roster, Sophie Steinman-Gordon
    Music by: Murray Weinstock.
    Costumes by: Karen Young.
    Lighting design by: Severn Clay.
    Ailey Citigroup Theater January 26 and 27, 2008

    A really sweet duet between Raphael Boumaila and Dagmar Spain, two dogs in love in the moonlight, stays strong, almost touching, throughout, even with occasional silly bits, but the bizarre section titled "Red Zone" that follows is hard to watch, possibly even for dog lovers, and intermission felt welcome.

    Most people, with the exception of W.C. Fields and similar curmudgeons, have at least some soft spot for kids and/or puppies, and it's pretty hard not to call the next section cute no matter what your perspective; six pairings of adult/child as parent/puppy, representing six different breeds of dog, give the audience a lot to laugh about, even those who wouldn't know a Weimaraner from a pug. The night could have ended there and been complete, but it didn't. For dog-neutral viewers, most of the rest of the evening just started to feel contrived, inexplicable or worse. The "puppies" had some more cute moments, but overall the remainder just felt like watching someone wring the last drops from an almost-dry towel.

      Raphael Boumaila and Dagmar Spain in Ancestors in WeDOGS
      Photo by Andre Costantini
      Raphael Boumaila and Dagmar Spain in "Ancestors"
    The dynamic range of this evening-length show is impressive, even if some parts are weaker than others, and the premise of exploring the closer-than-you-think similarities between humans and dogs garnered some good moments. Seidman deserves kudos for the obvious hard work and relentless exploration of dog behavior involved in making WeDOGS. For all but the most diehard dog-lover, though, this just seems like a concept stretched too thin to carry an evening.

    JANUARY 31, 2008

    Reader comments on WeDOGS:

  • it was awsome   from Olivia, Apr 4, 2008
  • Wedogs   from Lulu, Jul 5, 2008
  • [no subject]   from zoe hockenberry, May 31, 2009

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