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      Jonathan Royse Windham faces Mei Yamanaka in Oui Danse: French Amour
      Photo by Melissa Correa
      Jonathan Royse Windham faces Mei Yamanaka
    Love is Contagious

    Oui Danse involve the audience in French Amour


    Naming a show French Amour is risky business, but choreographer Brice Mousset and producer Marcella Guarino make it work, at Danspace, with their just-formed company Oui Danse.

    The space is ambiguous as audience members trickle in, with tables for drinks on each side of the space and women and men in chic black clothes dancing and mingling. These actors in elegant black approach audience strangers as we enter the space, chatting us up a bit to explain and preview what will come or simply pulling us out onto the dance floor to dance. This immersion of the audience into the performance has elements of Sleep No More, though thankfully none of its heavy-handed manipulation. A conspiratorial, wink-wink approach makes the period of adjustment go fairly smoothly, though lapses in music or pulse sometimes make these early dancing forays awkward.

    Choreography by: Brice Mousset.
    Produced by: Marcella Guarino.
    Dancers: Jake Bone, Saioa Lopez Briones, William Briscoe, Taeler Cyrus, Catherine Jaeger, Malik Shabazz Kitchen, Laurent Le Gall, Natalie Ortiz, Sergio Tapia-Fikes, Eila Valls, Jonathan Royse Windham, Mei Yamanaka, with guest artist Valentine Norton
    Supporting cast: Brian Castillo, Josefine Carlson, Laureen Elizabeth, Allegra Herman, Moeka Matsui, Alicia McGinty, Ashley Menestrina, Katie Mullen, Graziella Murdocca, Leslie Plummer, Sam Wong
    Lighting design by: Jose Vargas.
    Production stage manager: Emma Krauss.
    Creation and direction: Brice Mousset.
    Assistant choreographer: Natalie Ortiz.
    Stylist: Catherine Correa.
    St. Marks Church
    September 12-14, 2013

    An invasion by drunken "sailors" with leave bags slung over their shoulders breaks things open and begins the performance. While our guides feign dismay and continue to involve us — "Have you seen ____? I'm looking for him; tell me if you find him" — the sailors barge around the space, flopping and brawling. Mousset makes clever uses of the bags, as sacks to slide on, padding for falls or pillow weapons. After a fun, fast group dance, the interlopers disperse around the room and begin, one by one, to rip off their shirts and trousers for some artful, writhing gymnastics. One is surprisingly and decisively female.

    Spotlights and gentle pushes and pulls by guiding hands bring the audience around the space to a table where a seductive and athletic negotiation is beginning, between Jonathan Royse Windham and Mei Yamanaka. These two, each a joy to watch singly, are even more fun together. Their movement and comedic chops are sharp and quick, and their choices are often surprising.

    Windham and Yamanaka in action in Oui Danse: French Amour
    Photo by Kristin Aytona
    Windham and Yamanaka in action

    The flow and pacing of French Amour work well, keeping the audience engaged and moving. Famous songs define the segments but don't limit the action. There are often multiple storylines happening at once, sometimes solos and sometimes couples, sometimes in separate spaces and sometimes sharing a larger space. There is not a lot of time for tenderness, as drama and conflict rule the evening, but it is never dull.

    At one point, a line of women take over one side of the carpeted risers and fan, open and stamp their legs in unison to grip our attention, then pick out audience targets to dance with before leaving lust in their wake. Eila Valls hits a bullseye here, epitomizing the flavor of the night.

    Surely each spectator has a different experience of the show, but the performers seem to have a good sense of who and when to engage the audience, and it's likely that all felt engaged and stimulated by the time the lights flashed out on the last group number, with five men holding five partners aloft on their shoulders.

    SEPTEMBER 18, 2013

    Reader comments on Oui Danse: French Amour:

  • Amazing   from Ana Adams, Oct 2, 2013

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