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    Will Rawls and Kennis Hawkins as Dance Gang in Neal Medlyn and Dance Gang
    Photo by Yi-Chun Wu
    Will Rawls and Kennis Hawkins as Dance Gang

    Loose Costumes and Dancers on the Loose

    Neal Medlyn and Dance Gang twist it up


    Dancegang may become a verb if Will Rawls and Kennis Hawkins keep it up. In Dog Breaks: Part Two of Dog Trilogy, Dance Gang took everything a bit further in the safety of the theater. Danceganging involves playing with the notions of setting and theater; the object is to fit into a setting while calling out the artifice of theater and making it take orders. It works equally well in a huge outdoor space and a relatively small theater. For Part Two, the duo made themselves at home in DTW, using every bit of the stage and most of the audience area as well, and putting the audience onstage to further mix up stage and audience boundaries. A simple but effective backdrop of digital numbers counting down from 15 minutes on flat but changing colors is the main feature of the piece but also more or less unimportant. Microphones are more important, as the two sing and give mock/real directions for lighting and sound cues.

    Choreography by: Kennis Hawkins, Neal Medlyn, Will Rawls.
    Dancers: Dance Gang: Will Rawls and Kennis Hawkins
    Neal Medlyn: with Carmine Covelli and Farris Craddock
    Music by: Farris Craddock.
    Lighting design by: Chloe Z Brown (Dance Gang) and Bruce Steinberg.
    Body decor for Dance Gang: Tony Orrico.
    Dance Theater Workshop
    October 22-24, 2009

    Dance Gang want us to be comfortable with them even as they do uncomfortable things, and usually we end up obliging. Loose but body-revealing cotton shortsitards cede to nude bodies covered in elaborate tattoos and fake blood, and the shock value surprisingly wears off quickly. It doesn't hurt that they are hot, as Paris says, but nudity always has a humanizing element that sends erotic out the door. Basically, Dance Gang are proving they can do whatever they like, and we'll probably like it, too. One favorite bit has the two trading quick and sturdy quotes and aphorisms for success in life, like "No pressure, no diamonds," wrapping it up with "and that's all we can remember tonight."

    Neal Medlyn brings his own team of tales to ...Her's a Queen. His goofy prognostication trick at the beginning and end of the piece ("Y'see y'all — "I'm magic") bookends it well. At first his character just looks like a big ole mess with a guitar, and by the end we learn that his character really is a big ole mess, but a loveable and complicated one. Odd squarish glasses and an overlong t-shirt/slip are his outfit, other than his too-small underwear ("My pussy's hanging out!"), which is sort of a lead-in to the meat of the piece. Carmine Covelli, who works himself slowly into the piece by taking guerilla-style photos of Medlyn that are projected live to the back wall, and Farris Craddock, who seems to be just messing about with some toy instruments but eventually does a really good job at creating a soundtrack, are both integral to the piece. Covelli acts as the sober sidekick to Medlyn's histrionic sex addict and probably the other half of a distinctly odd couple (favorite lines: "I ain't no bear; I'm a baby" which he proves by showing us the diapers on his elbows. Medlyn's response, touched: "You're MY baby?"). In the meantime, many homey stories get told, Medlyn periodically gets tackled onto a big gym mat/mattress and ravaged dramatically by Covelli ("I would never hurt you, Neal"), and the ways our young people today navigate sex and intimacy are topics used to illustrate possible ways to get to that "big, vast, white expanse of milk" place where abstinence and peace of mind are possible. An audience-participation group cuddle, apparently one such youth trend, creates a sweet break from the drama and wordplay and provides a nice excuse for Dance Gang to come back onstage and do a little dancing after the cuddling is done.

    Neal Medlyn, onscreen and in blur, with Carmine Covelli (blur) and Farris Craddock in Neal Medlyn and Dance Gang
    Photo by Yi-Chun Wu
    Neal Medlyn, onscreen and in blur, with Carmine Covelli (blur) and Farris Craddock

    The grouping of Dance Gang with Neal Medlyn is one of those that work, with both going for some new edges and some new ways of performing and both mostly succeeding.

    OCTOBER 29, 2009

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