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    Gallim Dance, in Wonderland in Gallim Dance and Camille A. Brown
    Photo by Yi-Chun Wu
    Gallim Dance, in Wonderland

    Double Good

    Gallim Dance and Camille A. Brown blow up the Joyce Theater


    Vaguely cowboy is the music that opens Wonderland, the Gallim Dance work that is the first half of a double bill at the Joyce Theater on opening night. The rhythm of horse hooves clumps the stage in darkness, which slowly lifts to show dancers jumping improbably high in full squats and landing, just out of sync, as heavily as horse feet.

    Choreography by: Andrea Miller and Camille A. Brown.
    Dancers: Gallim: Paula Alonso, Billy Barry, Matthew Branham, Bret Easterline, Caroline Fermin, Andrew Murdock, Troy Ogilvie, Francesca Romo, Erin Shand, Dan Walczak, Jonathan Windham, Arika Yamada
    Brown: Antonio Brown, Julia Eichten, Lisa Einstein, Belen Estrada, Jasmine Forest, Otis Donovan Herring, Juel D. Lane, Mayte Natalio, David Norsworthy, Francine Elizabeth Ott, Mora-Amina Parker, DuJuan Smart, Jr., Keon Thoulouis, Clarice Young, Camille A. Brown
    Costumes by: Jose Solis (Gallim), Wunmi Olaiya, Carolyn Meckha Cherry (Brown).
    Lighting design by: Vincent Vigilante (Gallim), Burke Wilmore, Philip Treviño.
    Joyce Theater
    August 9, 11, 13, 2010

    The Gallim men proceed as roughneck cowboys, wrangling invisible ropes and moving big and bold. Horse-straddling wide squats and bronco-like bucks and jumps give the whole thing a wild but funny flavor. Then, in the first of many non sequiturs, the women backstage in darkness, in little-girl voices, begin singing m-i-c, k-e-y, m-o-u-s-e. Footlights and follies formations quickly transform the stage into a 1930s musical theater piece, with music to match. Over-the-top vaudeville grimaces and grins give the frenetic goings-on a creepiness that competes with the fun. A spotlit Arika Yamada is full of creepy fun as she flits and leaps through the others, alternately enjoying herself and abusing herself. A human pyramid and fakey kidplay "gunshots" wrap up all of this, and as the pyramid disassembles, each person runs across stage to collide or jump uncaught into an impassive Jonathan Windham, as if he has become the uninterested leader or the latest punching bag. Troy Ogilvie takes a spotlight turn even more physical than Yamada's, with jumps to exhaustion. Throughout, convulsive contortion is the movement thread, with no leap or movement allowed to be simple or unmolested, adding an extra layer of physicality to the heavy workload of these excellent dancers.

    Gallim Dance and Camille A. Brown
    Photo by Yi-Chun Wu

    Things go from vaguely creepy to dark as music of crickets accompanied by big drums has all the dancers hunched over holding the back of their necks, moving in discomfort in a circle. A new, looser circle then surrounds two wrestling men until they lie exhausted and the circle begins a rhythmic, tribal dance. This disregard for suffering or death builds, toward the theme stated by choreographer Andrea Miller that human pack mentality leads to desensitized brutality and disregard for humanity. Some scenes show this theme clearly, while others seem included more for their freak factor, like the bizarre and funny lip-synching Windham does to a disembodied little-girl voice singing apparent nonsense, while two other men swing him up onto their shoulders and then into big, chin-skimming arcs toward the floor. Vaguely spiritual music accompanies two lines of people who stride slowly through cycling red, green and blue light to meet in the middle and end the piece, arbitrarily or not, but calmly, energy spent.

      Juel D. Lane and Camille A. Brown in Been There, Done That in Gallim Dance and Camille A. Brown
      Photo by Christopher Duggan
      Juel D. Lane and Camille A. Brown in "Been There, Done That"
    New Second Line opens Camille A. Brown's half of the program with a New Orleans boy musician image on the back wall and music by Rebirth Brass Band, and joyful African-inspired arm-flinging dance, all reflecting the inspiration of this piece to honor and celebrate the spirit and culture of the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina disrupted their lives. Second Line is a traditional brass band parade for weddings, social events, and especially, funerals. The people following the parade dancing with high energy and spirit are the "second line." The movement in New Second Line is elastic, springy and big, with collapses to floor that pop right back again, lots of group synchronicity and fun. Everything is so strong and emphatic but also fluid and smooth, especially as embodied by DuJuan Smart, Jr., who dazzles at the end.

    Good and Grown is Brown's solo to music whose lyrics seem to be describing her life, or at least the "very good years" of eight, thirteen and seventeen. Her beautifully expressive arms and little bits of quick sharpness keep our eyes on Brown.

    Girls Verse I is just a whole lot of girl fun, with ultrafast dancing to drum-and-bass and M.I.A. music. On the back wall, back to back s-shapes of colored light overlap beautifully, thanks to lighting by Philip Treviño. Big, open-leg squats and arm waves lead to fast rolls and ground-bouncing, with floor slaps, invisible whips and boxing moves thrown in as well and just enough artful slowdowns to keep the lid from blowing off.

    City of Rain by Camille A. Brown in Gallim Dance and Camille A. Brown
    Photo by Christopher Duggan
    "City of Rain" by Camille A. Brown

    Been There, Done That is a humorous duet between Brown and Juel D. Lane, who both danced for years for Ronald K. Brown/Evidence and obviously know each other well onstage. What starts out dressy, prim and proper gets a little ugly as the jackets and shoes come off, all to an old-timey song about "going back to my sweet thing [lover]." Their timing and little distractions and asides (usually his) to the audience are brilliant, as they manage to both dance and fight at the same time. And, whew, can they dance when they do get around to it.

    City of Rain, though, is a powerful gem that builds from beginning to end to blow us away and end the show. "Two-Way Dream." an original score by Jonathan Melville Pratt with piercing strings, wind and rain, has much to do with this, but Brown's choreography and staging take this good score to a great place. Waves or lines of men and women, often by sex but eventually intermingling, begin slowly and somberly and get further and further into pain and grief, dancing ever more dramatically, in hurdling jumps to the floor and a cathartic solo by Keon Thoulouis, until the final, heaven-imploring group ending.

    AUGUST 10, 2010

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