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      Akiko Furukawa and Courtney Drasner in Jenni Hong:
      Photo by Quinn Batson
      Akiko Furukawa and Courtney Drasner
    Lots of Heart

    Jenni Hong looks for love at FLICfest


    Watching a choreographer develop a style and a piece over time is one of the good parts of being a dance writer. Jenni Hong has been working on versions and pieces of for several years now, and FLICfest gave her a chance to present an evening that pulls all the pieces together. FLICfest (, conceived and organized by Jeramy Zimmerman, gives 12 choreographers an hour-plus show in The Irondale Center, a converted church space near BAM.

    Choreography by: Jenni Hong.
    Dancers: Akiko Furukawa, Courtney Drasner, Alexandra Albrecht, Mei Yamanaka, Natsuki Arai, Tzu-Ying Lee, Jenni Hong.
    Sound design by: Janine DeVal Gay.
    Costumes by: Jenni Hong.

    Related links: FLICfest
    The Irondale Center

    Surely is missing a "t" to avoid legal issues, but this rowdy take on dating and matters of the heart is different enough to deserve its own spelling. Ever-versatile Courtney Drasner opens the piece with a combination of smooth dancing and rough falling, perhaps to make the point that this love business can get ugly and self-destructive. Or maybe it's just funny. is broad comedy sprinkled with moments of pathos.

    And Akiko Furukawa, who stalks onstage in a speedwalk to join Drasner, is chief comedienne and sad heroine. Sometimes she is deadpan, reciting lists of words as if they will solve things, and sometimes she is an open cartoon bubble, letting us in on the absurdities of her search.

    Alexandra Albrecht, Drasner, Mei Yamanaka, Furukawa in Jenni Hong:
    Photo by Quinn Batson
    Alexandra Albrecht, Drasner, Mei Yamanaka, Furukawa

    Alexandra Albrecht and Mei Yamanaka join in to ramp up the melee and show their chops in the arm-waving, tumbling duet Hong has given them. Albrecht does a signature stamping dance, like an angry exclamation point, perfect punctuation for the humor and flavor of the piece. And then a large theme of the piece begins to emerge, as the dancers split off into an Asian pair and a Caucasian pair, two little worlds of women. For though it is easy to see the universal experience in these goings-on, this is a piece about women, and a woman searching for a woman, and the opposites-attract role of two cultures.

    But back to the universal. And the match-making. Three pairs of chairs and two more people, Natsuki Arai and Tzu-Ying Lee, join the mix. The chairs, set in a line of opposing pairs, become three little simultaneous rooms or a linear story-telling device. Potential mates, invisible or visible, wait in each "room." Most major personality types and pitfalls are included. Furukawa's pantomimes with a self-important bore, then a knee-tremblingly attractive hottie are hilarious. A frenetic quintet of different partnerings surround a sad and lonely Arai, who is left out because she is sad or is sad because she is left out.

    Furukawa with Tzu-Ying Lee and Natsuki Arai in Jenni Hong:
    Photo by Quinn Batson
    Furukawa with Tzu-Ying Lee and Natsuki Arai

    Throughout, the dancing moments are fast and furious, with smooth movers falling into awkward places and positions and bouncing up to move on for more. The most over-the-top sequence is still the kung fu movie "fight" between the mighty Caucasians and the Asian "horde", with Drasner and Albrecht fending off five Asian women so easily they literally blow them away at one point.

    Ultimately, this physical solidness seems to calm our trembling heroine, who ends up sitting on the shoulder of her favored non-Asian partner, who is sitting on the ground.

    JANUARY 26, 2011

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