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    Jeffrey Duval on back, Kevin Ho on him, Petra van Noort in back, in Berries and Bulls in Tiffany Mills Company
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Jeffrey Duval on back, Kevin Ho on him, Petra van Noort in back, in "Berries and Bulls"

    A Feast of Contact, Conflict and Care

    Tiffany Mills Company at BAM Fishman Space


    What a bird of strange feathers a Tiffany Mills Company performance can be. Spoken concepts mix with danced contact, humor with bitterness, anarchy with good construction.

    Choreography by: Tiffany Mills.
    Dancers: main: Jeffrey Duval, Kevin Ho, Tiffany Mills, Emily Pope-Blackman, Petra van Noort
    guest: Einy Am, Lucie Baker, Ching-l Chang, John Hoobyar, Elise Knudsen, Nikolas Owens, Hannah Seidel, Kensaku Shinohara, Simon Thomas-Train, Mei Yamanaka
    Music by: Jonathan Pratt (The Feast).
    Production design by: Ian Trask (Berries and Bulls).
    Sound design by: Kevin Ho and Tiffany Mills (Berries and Bulls).
    Costumes by: Mary Kokie McNaugher.
    Lighting design by: Chris Hudacs.
    Production stage manager: Samuel-Moses Jones.
    Dramaturge: Kay Cummings (Berries and Bulls).
    BAM Fishman Space
    May 30 to June 2, 2013

    This BAM Fishman Space show begins with The Feast (Part 1), a buffet of sexy and insecure. Much of the dancing takes place on the back wall, in darkness and artfully mottled light, often in duets. Mills and Kevin Ho go first, with him leaning over her, covering her or leaving her alone, as she spends time and energy "writing" on the wall and the air.

    Emily Pope-Blackman and Petra van Noort are curious onlookers as the first duet subsides. They soon begin a nuzzling contact duet that sometimes takes them up the wall, or rather their split legs up the wall as their torsos root to the floor. Dialog/text in The Feast is implied, but nothing is verbalised. Struggle and cooperation seem to be constants as well, with each performer given solo bits to state his or her case before reengaging with the others. Music by Jonathan Pratt drives and recedes the intensity onstage.

    Emily Pope-Blackman and Petra van Noort in The Feast in Tiffany Mills Company
    Photo by Julie Lemberger
    Emily Pope-Blackman and Petra van Noort in "The Feast"

    To the mainstay corps of Ho, Pope-Blackman, van Noort and Jeffrey Duval, Mills adds small mountains of paper and a small army of performers, for Berries and Bulls. Duval arrives in underwear and lies down in paper, getting his jeans on while lying on his back, to start his "day", perhaps. He makes and flies a couple paper airplanes and is soon joined by Emily Pope-Blackman, whose character seems to be perpetually peeved. Jeffrey is a mostly unwilling partner, giving Emily reasons she should not touch him, as if she is an electron and he a proton, for instance. This idea of touch/don't touch carries throughout the piece and gets deeper and more varied in other duets, shifting to share/don't share and listen/don't hear as well. Petra (van Noort) and Kevin (Ho) seem to calm the other two, who seem to need it.

    There is a lot going on in Berries and Bulls, but it is very much an unguided tour. Mills uses the ten welcomeguest performers beautifully, pairing them with each other or the main performers, sweeping them through the space or sitting them in a strawberry-eating clump. Energy and story are often free to roam when they are onstage, giving us a break from the intensity of the main four and their struggles with one another.

    There is quite a bit of humor and beautiful chaos in Berries and Bulls, but the chaos takes a turn toward the dark near the end, after paper has flown everywhere and the pages have settled. Emily and Kevin revisit an ambiguous but traumatic episode from their past, which leaves Emily catatonic and Kevin abjectly sorry. The other two try to bring them back to normal with different styles — Petra: "she's fine"; Jeffrey: "she's dead!" — and the end result is as unclear as the story, but the caring and struggling to heal and love are real and clear.

    JUNE 6, 2013

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