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      Jane Comfort, binbinFactory, The Good to Go Girls (top to bottom) in DanceNow 2011 Two
      Photo by Steven Schreiber
      Jane Comfort, binbinFactory, The Good to Go Girls (top to bottom)
    Just What the Doctor Ordered

    DanceNow at Joe's Pub Heals the Soul


    Festivals like the four-day DanceNOW at Joe's Pub are a shot in the arm for any dance doubts. The range and skill and impact of 40 well-chosen groups can keep a viewer buzzing and glowing for a week. The challenge of presenting five minutes of dance on fourteen feet of stage produced laser-sharp concepts and performances nine times out of ten. Each night of this 2011 season was a treat, but the Saturday night show was a treasure.

    Opening night has its own review, so the following are highlights and Saturday, in order of presentation.

    point-scene W-: Makiko Tamura/small apple co. Bells tolling, two men consoling: beautiful, deep view of two men mourning, letting themselves be vulnerable and tender with each other, danced with power and flow by Ryoji Sasamoto and Michael Ingle.

    Joe's Pub
    October 20-22, 2011

    All of this is true: Alexandra Burley and Alexander Springer. Begins cute, ends with connection: Dressed in dog and chicken cheerleading/mascot suits and dancing to triumphal procession music by Aaron Copland, these two nevertheless open and end true quietly, on mics, stating personal tidbits — "all of this is true" — to open, and taking an audience poll of shared truths to end, starting small and ending metaphysically, all hands up and onboard by "You're breathing." and "You're here." Chicken and dog win one for the humans.

    Lady Lamp: Claire Porter. More Porter magic — lamp speaks, tells all: Jen Katz, as an elegant floor lamp, explores darkness and shedding light with humor and perfect timing, with a classic Porter movement phrase to go with a sidebar of how she 'could have been a low-on-the-floor-behind-the-couch-looking-up lamp.'

    Let's Get Tangled: The Good to Go Girls. Three colorful hoofers in, respectively, green, yellow and orange, dance happy-perky-sparky while the soundtrack explores female revenge fantasies. Gunshots say "enough of your love" to a cheating scamp.

      small apple co., Kawamura the 3rd, Take Dance (T-B) in DanceNow 2011 Two
      Photo by Steven Schreiber
      small apple co., Kawamura the 3rd, Take Dance (T-B)
    I See Myself in You: Iain Rowe. Another sweet male duet of men caring about each other, to sad string music, danced by Nick and Ross Katen. This choreographer won the Grande prize for the festival — significant time and money to develop new work.

    Space Coding: Jamal Jackson Dance. Really, really good African movement to a mashup of narration/scat-singing and tatatataka Indian dance music. Dancers Jamal Jackson, Asha Rhodes and Gabrielle Wilson take unison and solo turns with the movement and throw in a false, exhausted ending before the real, triumphal ending.

    Capriccio: bin bin factory. As always, Satoshi Haga and Rie Fukuzawa take one simple idea or prop and mine and refine it until they find gold. Here, the duo do balloons, well. Simple tube balloons in multiple colors make a visually arresting, kaleidoscopic piece to good electronic music by Satoshi Haga, in smart stripy pants by Fukuzawa.

    Friday, October 21

    Organ Introduction (On Our Way) and Sex Intelligent (Remix): Nicholas Leichter. Leichter explores white and black, young and old, gay and straight, while moving breathtakingly, with soft quick power, with a stellar Bryan Stimpel, to strong R&B.

    The Distance Between Us: Gina Gibney — duet of soft, clean movement, lovely and flowing, with jumps and rolls melting into each other, notably danced here by two men, Josh Palmer and Andrew Avery, to the subtext lyrics of "I can't do it, I've tried my best."

    My eyes aren't ready yet: Loni Landon. Solo danced by Delphina Parenti, full of soft whipping and flinging, to ground and through air. Nice frisson between softness and crunch in both music and movement.

    Dyad: Amber Sloan — wonderful melt-together duet by Matthew Rogers and Amber Sloan dancing as one person, two people acting as one, and lovers. So in synch.

    Standing: John-Mark Owen — spiritual and slow, with a man, um, standing, to a song whose sole word seems to be "stand." Won the nightly audience award.

    Improvisation: Raving Jaynes/Amy Larimer. Larimer continues to impress with her comedic dances; they often seem to come from nowhere, as in this piece, which is mostly improvised, using a word from the crowd, in this case "wow." Jamie Graham makes an excellent partner in this latest invention.

    Rain (excerpt from Salaryman): Take Dance. Utterly beautiful, mostly simple piece, set to a popular Japanese song from the 1960s. Nana Tsuda walks in slowly like a bride, from the crowd, to join John Eirich onstage, who is waiting for her with an umbrella, which he ultimately gives to her as they say goodbye. Brisk, clean dancing in the middle of this excertped section promises more of the same in the larger piece.

    Saturday, October 22:

    one of the strongest evenings of dance ever presented by DanceNow, from start to finish.

    Ellis Wood took a piece of her larger Mom and fit it onto the Joe's Pub stage, with an elastic loop stretched across the stage serving as barrier, choreographic tool and complication, which she cleverly solves in the end with a pair of sharp scissors.

    Nicholas Leichter Dance, AlexanDance, Deb Lohse (T-B) in DanceNow 2011 Two  
    Photo by Steven Schreiber  
    Nicholas Leichter Dance, AlexanDance, Deb Lohse (T-B)
    Nathalie Matychuk and her BANGdance group make Let's Throw the Baby in the Cake fascinating. Kiddy-vibe/bell music with a pulse, by lacunae, and racoon-eye makeup-goggles give this bounding, active piece a new-agey/eighties feel, while the hungry dancers — Lisa Borres, Shanelle Collins, Titilayo Derricotte, Danielle McIntosh, Allie Pfeffer, Joanna Taubeneck and Alex Megan Schell — give everything a tribal, feral quality.

    Duplicate: Deborah Lohse. And her dad. A simple, brilliant and charming take on something more than one dancer has probably wanted to do — bring dad onstage and give him a role, poking fun at and with him, at the grand seriousness of The Stage. Probably the best contemporary vaudeville act around.

    Fritha Pengelly uses her body to pose and answer the question Where was Doug Elkins when Trisha Brown had Saturday Night Fever? — a casually spectacular b-girl/modern dance mashup by an old pro who knows.

    And Jane Comfort employs Lucie Baker and Gardiner Comfort as Barbie and Ken to answer the question you may never have thought to ask: what would an actual consummated date by those two plastic people look and sound like? Beauty is flatout silly and hilarious, with spot-on voices/noises over a porn-film plot. Barbie's perky last line: "Um, bye!"

    Mana Kawamura takes us to a Disney-meets-the-spirit-world Quiet Room, a haunting, soulful and enchanting piece. Broken pieces of music and movement — "When You With Upon a Star" is distant but present — blend together magically as Kawamura and a mostly still, seated-in-a-corner Christiana Axelsen spin a tale. Both are tasty-smooth movers, making every little and big bit count.

    Christal Brown performs the stuffing out of I'm Fine 2011, a deceptively simple but masterful solo that riffs on the phrase "I'm fine," taking us from the pitiful side to the powerful side of it in five minutes, with well-timed costume changes and razor-sharp delivery.

    And few people approach the duet-making skill of Zvi Gotheiner, who shares a bit of it in an excerpt of COUPLING, danced here by Todd Allen and Rommel Salveron. So much goes unsaid but reads like large-print type, though there is nothing simple about the words.

    The same description and more apply to Doug Elkins' Mo (or)town/Redux, an excerpted duet danced remarkably by Cori Marquis (an Amanda Wells doppelganger in spirit and substance) and Alexander Dones. It is so easy to overuse, but the word HOT works here. Music, movement and emotion combine to overwhelm and submerge the viewer, glad to go under. This won the audience award for the night, unsurprisingly.

    Music by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and dance by Jacinta Vlach/The Liberation Dance Theater took things out inspired and excited to end the evening. The 99%, with all its connotations of wrongs to be righted, is still fierce and fun. If anything can rouse people, dance like this may be it.

    NOVEMBER 1, 2011

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