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    Courtney Jo Drasner crushing the pearl for Jordana Che Toback in FLICfest 2013
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Courtney Jo Drasner crushing the pearl for Jordana Che Toback

    In the Land of Uhs

    FLICfest 2013 at Irondale Center


    One way to watch FLICfest is to go in knowing that there may be an extra dollop of wtf. Trying to make sense of things, never the best way to watch dance, is even less productive here. Artistic director Jeramy Zimmerman brings 12 choreographers to this "new kind of dance festival, one focused not only on bringing exciting dance theater work to new audiences, but one that [is] a vehicle for choreographers to exchange ideas with each other and with audience members", and three are mentioned below, from this third year of the fest.

    FLICFEST 2013
    Choreography by: Jordana Che Toback, Dana Salisbury and Mari Meade Montoya, Sari Nordman.
    Dancers: Toback: Dorian Cervantes, Courtney Jo Drasner, Christina Johnson, Gabriel Malo, Tsubssa Ogawa, Julie Smith, Vanessa Walters
    Meade Montoya: Sage Caprice Abowitt, Allison Beler, Breanna Gribble, Sean Hatch, Mari Meade Montoya, Rachel Rizzutto, Dana Salisbury, with Emma Grace Skove-Epps
    Nordman: Kristin Hatleberg and Sari Nordman
    Lighting Director: Tim Cryan.
    Sound: Kasey Burgess.
    Film for Nordman: Sari Nordman.
    Irondale Center
    January 24-26 and January 31-February 2, 2013

    Jordana Che Toback's Crush the Pearl seems accessible; there is plenty of flatout, impressive dancing that includes martial-art-like "ha-ha-ha" grunts to finish off movement phrases. Three dance out a love triangle with one woman controlling a man and another woman. And then all or most of seven don feathered headpieces and become, um, flashier? It is joyful enough to watch Courtney Jo Drasner dance the lights out of anything and everything and to simply revel in the spectacle. Crush the Pearl may not elicit soul-searching or deep emotional turmoil, but it certainly stays visually satisfying; when you have the dancers and the choreographic chops to bring it, bring it. Toback succeeds in entertaining without pandering, giving us enough meat with the smoke and spice.

    Rachel Rizutto, Alison Beler, Mari Meade Montoya bound together in FLICfest 2013
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Rachel Rizutto, Alison Beler, Mari Meade Montoya bound together

    Dana Salisbury and Mari Meade Montoya created What We Were Handed in a collaboration that must have seemed like a good idea. The result is an inexplicable combination with no apparent connection. Blindfolds, from Dana Salisbury's Dark Dining Project, are required to enter the space. Some feel anxious when blindfolded. Others feel sensory deprivation. Neither reaction enhances the experience of hearing a dance happening, then seeing (as far as we know) the same dance happen again. Similarly, an inspiration of Indigenous Australian Songlines sounds good on paper but doesn't translate to stage; it sounds like rich source material that could go many places unexplored here. After a Salisbury-assisted solo by EmmaGrace Skove-Epps, in and under diaphanous fabric, a strange Meade trio in interconnected web belts gives way to dancers making rhythmic passes across the floor and negotiating a serpentine string path/songline.

    Sari Nordman (L) and Kristin Hatleberg bring in the mystery stool in FLICfest 2013
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Sari Nordman (L) and Kristin Hatleberg bring in the mystery stool

    A Dadaesque Collage of Chauvinist Wisdom is Sari Nordman's charmingly disturbed duet with Kristin Hatleberg that may win Best Title Ever. A very slow intro threatens to stay that way but changes course unexpectedly as the two begin to slap each other, slowly. This is the sort of welcome and uncomfortable twist that pops up repeatedly. Occasionally the two stop what they are doing to drop a tiny, often hurr, hurr, chauvinist aphorism or joke. Other, larger breaks include an audience participation segment with people calling jokes in to the duo's cell phones and then coming onstage to tell the joke, and a dreamy short film with a cast of eleven women. A mystery stool brought in midpiece serves several purposes, one of which is to give Nordman a platform to bare a breast and semi-recline in a pose of satisfied irony. True to the Dada in its title, this duet leaves us scratching our heads but looking forward to more.

    FEBRUARY 9, 2013

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