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    Walter Dundervill: Candy Mountain
    Photo by Yi-Chun Wu

    Strange Tribe, in Color or Black

    Walter Dundervill finds Aesthetic Destiny 1: Candy Mountain at DTW


    Walter Dundervill creates a world that is both very odd and very appealing, in Aesthetic Destiny 1: Candy Mountain. Think Isadora Duncan meets Led Zeppelin in a 1960s sci-fi TV show; it is a colorful mixture of decades and archetypes with a Dionysian feel.

    Choreography by: Walter Dundervill.
    Dancers: dancers Tyler Ashley, Benjamin Asriel, Patricia Beaman, Biba Bell, Megan Byrne, Burr Johnson, Jennifer Kjos, Athena Malloy, Penelope Margolis
    with actor/dancers Ben Boatright, Janet Dunson and Kevin Lovelady
    Music by: Justin Luchter.
    Set design by: Walter Dundervill.
    Costumes by: Walter Dundervill.
    Lighting design by: Carrie Wood.
    Production stage manager: Sarah Holcman.
    Dance Theater Workshop
    February 16-19, 2011

    On a smoky preshow stage, members of a strange tribe walk back and forth, picking up items lying on the floor. Things are calm and earnest, and dark, implying a beginning of time. Stage cleared, the group lies, feet out, in a large circle of 12 bodies, with a tiny spotlight in the centerspace between their heads, as if they are an offering to the gods or something cosmic. Synchronized leg claps and rolls from belly to back give this solemn ritual a Busby Berkeley vibe, and the ritual sets the tone for the evening. Ambient music of tinkles and rumbles, by Justin Luchter, contribute a volcanic or rocket-fueled flavor, suggesting a setting of either primal planet or enormous spaceship.

    The first standing dance has lines of people with geometric shapes strapped to their heads walking back and forth, presenting shapeheads in one direction and shape-framed faces on the return. What could be silly feels here more like a dignified version of an '80s music video. This is an odd tribe, who take their oddity seriously.

    Translucent chiffon fabric lends an airy feel and a looseness that frees breasts to appear and disappear as they will, a choice that could imply either innocence or decadence, and a Duncan-esque movement palette looks good on this group of well-trained dancers without looking pretentious or precious.

    Fun arrives when three actors begin reciting lines with flat or even absurd deliveries that imply drama and intrigue, and bad acting. The result is hilarious. It appears that the tribe will now be "discovered" by a group of serious scientists on a "mission." And, as if this is truly bad television, next comes a public service announcement about driving in rain and snow, to a groovy music soundtrack.

    The spectacle climax of the evening comes with a Led Zeppelin soundtrack and layered, fabric-scrappy costumes. While the three scientist-actors lie in suspended animation under a giant piece of fabric suspended from the ceiling, the tribe gets very Isadora Duncan, and then begins shedding clothes, until everyone is wearing backless chiffon and doing a nymph dance. Eventually, streamers that were holding costumes together become colorful and carefully placed perpendicular lines on the floor, bringing things back to serious ritual.

    But not until the scientists get one more chance to give us their excellent mock tension and a few more laughs.

    The end sequence, with all dressed in elegant black, is formal and sexy, and it seems to be about mating. Color and perpendiculars are removed to bring back circularity and simplicity. Pairs holding both of each other's hands parade around in a big circle until splitting off into two circles to sit and lie together, perhaps in the biblical sense. The climax, accompanied by a screaming, static-filled soundtrack, seems to come as two men reach some ultimate connection while pushing their feet together, spotlit in center stage. It is a beautiful, charged moment, and Candy Mountain winds down quietly from there, eventually ending with a soft encounter between the two before they walk off separately in the dark.

    FEBRUARY 22, 2011

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