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  •  REVIEW: JENNIFER MULLER: THE WORKS

    The Bench: (l to r) Susanna Bozzetti, Abdul Latif, Elizabeth Disharoon, Pascal Rekoert, Jen Peters, Josiah Guitian in Jennifer Muller: The Works
    Photo by Ben Hider
    The Bench: (l to r) Susanna Bozzetti, Abdul Latif, Elizabeth Disharoon, Pascal Rekoert, Jen Peters, Josiah Guitian

    Old Master, Young Spirit

    Jennifer Muller|The Works celebrate dancing 35 years

    By QUINN BATSON
    Offoffoff.com

    35 years is, what, two generations? Jennifer Muller and her company The Works have been making dance for 35 years, and it's interesting to see two generations of work on the same night by the same company. Program A of her Joyce Show included both Tub from 1973 and the new piece Bench. The result is uneven but easy on the eyes, mild but operatic, with sturdily structured pieces and consistently good dancing.

      
    JENNIFER MULLER: THE WORKS
    Choreography by: Jennifer Muller.
    Dancers: Susanna Bozzetti, Maria Cardenas, Elizabeth Disharoon, Rosi Lani Fiedelman, Seiko Fujita, Duane Gosa, Josiah Guitian, Gen Hashimoto, Tracy Ray Kofford, Abdul Latif, Jen Peters, Pascal Rekoert.
    Lighting design by: Jeff Croiter.
    Video images for Bench: Kevin Harkins.
     SCHEDULE
    Jennifer Muller/The Works
    Joyce Theater
    June 9-14, 2009

    Tub uses, surprise, a bathtub as its focal point and source of water. It uses water both to explore what water means to humans culturally and spiritually, and as a dramatic prop for women with long hair. The first time a bathing woman soaks her head and flings it back, the arc of spraying water is a beautiful explosion and a pleasant surprise, but the surprise wears off quickly. Tub is pretty and clever but ultimately bland. The women-only beginning section is slow and non-progressing, but things pick up as men enter the mix.Towels and swim fins join the bathtub to present themes of pleasure, sensuality, baptism, restoration and cleansing. Muller consistently uses music really well, but the distinctive scratch-whooping sounds of the primitive 1970s synthesizers Burt Alcantara used to make original music for Tub also really date the piece.

    Bench is a dance opera about environmental degradation that uses Al Gore's documentary movie and the seven deadly sins as inspirations. It is a really beautiful piece despite its dismal message and gives dancers more chances to impresss. Elizabeth Disharoon and Paskal Rekoert have a feisty and passionate dance relationship, Tracy Ray Kofford is an excellent dashing villain to foil Rekoert's valiant protagonist, and Seiko Fujita is a mysterious character moving through the piece with the distinctive clarity and precision of movement of a Japanese woman, possibly representing the innocence of the natural world. Images projected across the entire backstage wall and a 20-foot bench to fit the 12-person cast give the piece a large scale, and the devolution the images project from pristine nature to clearcut forests, smokestacks and ultimately a floodscape is dramatic but deceptively gentle. The end scene, a wish really, presents a vision of possible redemption and a prayer for rebirth. A powerful chorus mixed with primitive/native singing voices makes the ending music moving and effective.

    Gen Hashimoto, Mariana Cardenas in Jennifer Muller: The Works
    Photo by Ben Hider
    Gen Hashimoto, Mariana Cardenas

    Momentum ends the evening with, well, momentum. It is just flatout fun from beginning to end, more or less simply people having fun dancing to music by Yello. Rosie Lani Fiedelman seems to have the most fun and the most time onstage, dancing a funky, slinky club dance with pops and poses. Flying lifted people and high leg kicks keep the energy high, with happy faces on everyone. Just when the fun threatens to last a bit too long, Muller ends the piece expertly, with soft echoes and out.

    The Works shows the work of an old master with a young spirit, friendly and accessible with a flair for dramatic presentation and choosing good music.

    JUNE 16, 2009
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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