|Photo by Yi-Chun Wu|
|L-R: Dante Brown, Mei Yamanaka, Leslie Cuyjet, Abigail Levine
Floor/front: Christopher Bell|
Astors and Buildings and Books
Mark Dendy Takes a Slice of NYC Past to Bring us to NYC Present with NEWYORKnewyork@Astor Place, at Joe's Pub
By QUINN BATSON
A magical creature enters a maze of oddly stacked white blocks in purple-blue light and the soft sounds of wind chimes. Precise and wild, she carves space between and around the stacks without hitting them, until it becomes her mission to hit all of them, and bring every last one down.
That sense of mystery and wonder is never far away in Mark Dendy's NEWYORKnewyork @Astor Place, an evening of history and perspective on John Jacob Astor and family in NYC, and the economic nexus of dance, art and real estate here. DANCENOW commisioned Mark Dendy to create this dreamlike story at Joe's Pub, and Mei Yamanaka danced the opening.
|MARK DENDY: NYNY ASTOR PLACE|
|Choreography by: Mark Dendy in collaboration with performers.|
Dancers: Alice Klugherz, Christopher Bell, Danté Brown, Leslie Cuyjet, Mark Dendy, Stephen Donovan, Abigail Levine and and Mei Yamanaka.
Lighting design by: Lauren Parrish.
Video, Sound, Costume and Prop Design: Stephen Donovan.
Directorial and Choreographic Assistance: Christopher Bell.
May 6-9, 2015
Dendy/William Backhouse Astor II narrates much of the show from a grand seat onstage, wearing a topcoat with oversize fur lapels to remind us that the vast Astor fortune came first from the fur trade. We learn that the Astor Library occupied the building in which we watch the show. Books, and Macbeth's witches, become two of the fallback themes through the course of the evening; both are welcome vehicles for creative license and spice.
William Backhouse Astor Jr. is a colorful character, a serious libertine and abolitionist, who unlike his industrious father and enterprising grandfather, spent much of his time on his palatial yacht while in NYC and let his wife and older brother John do most of the philanthropic work that had become an Astor tradition and eventually created the entire building complex we know now as the Public Theater.
The other colorful characters onstage come to life through the excellent cast members Alice Klugherz, Christopher Bell, Stephen Donovan, Leslie Cuyjet, Abigail Levine and Danté Brown, and Yamanaka. Dendy is a master of choosing the best cast diverse and multitalented and often creators, too. Each performer appears in multiple characters and costumes, dancing a wide range of styles.
Background videos play a supporting role, too, with phantasmic fire for the witches and documentary collages for the period pieces and nightclub scenes. Leslie Cuyjet as a real estate agent and cancan dancer and Christopher Bell explaining how the economics of modern dance lead to a stripping job are memorable, and all the group dance pieces are a blast.
Above all, NEWYORKnewyork@Astor Place is entertaining and edifying, in equal parts. The dance segments are joyous and witty, the stories dark but nuanced. The audience leaves grinning, and glowing with new information.
|MAY 20, 2015|
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