Review: Point of DepartureOct 7th, 2012 | By Steven Weisz | Category: What Kat Saw
By Kat Richter for The Dance Journal
Friday night’s performance at the Christ Church Neighborhood House was the first in a three week series produced by Melanie Stewart Dance Theater. Although the evening featured new works from several familiar names in Philadelphia’s dance community, including Beau Hancock and Eun Jung Choi, its title—Point of Departure—proved an apt description. The duets were thought provoking but in need of some further gestation.
The US premiere of Sticky, choreographed by Stewart, showed enormous promise right from the start. Dancer Guillermo Ortega Tanus appeared onstage carrying Choi across his shoulders and explained to the audience, “This is my wife.” He then went on to describe the process by which men from his native country of Mexico receive their names and kept right on talking until Choi, silent and still while perched across his shoulders, slowly raised her hand to cover his mouth.
I’ll say this for the pair, who also serves as artistic co-directors of Da Da Dance Project: if their goal was to create a meandering, non-linear narrative, they certainly hit their mark. Sticky provided the audience with an intimate and uncompromising view of married life from the living room to the bedroom, set to an eclectic score that ranged from Tchaikovsky to old school merengue. It wasn’t quite domestic abuse, but it was hardly domestic bliss either. Choi crawled on the floor while Tanus dangled a microphone from its cord; she followed it like a child bobbing for apples and spoke only when he directed her to.
Despite the multiple costumes changes, from business suits down to their underwear, then from their underwear into a sequined ball gown and tuxedo, the highlight of the piece were the animations created by Liz Golberg and Raymond Ercoli and engineered by Tim Sawicki and Denzel Maradza. Choi in miniature leapt from sofa to coffee table in a virtual world projected across the back of the stage. It was like watching a video game, which made for a much needed break from watching the couple rearrange their furniture.
If I’ve said little about their dancing, it’s because there was so little of it to begin with. The hour long duet felt more like a one act play than an exercise in choreography, but there were very few lines and the plot made little sense. Of course, that was the entire point: the audience members that stayed for the second piece spent the entire intermission guessing at its meaning.
Hancock’s Poor Lost Sometime Boys brought the dance back into Point of Departure. Clad in layered costumes that are perhaps best described as Dickens meets Huck Finn meets homeless chic, Hancock and Scott McPheeters cavorted across the stage, their legs and arms swinging like pendulums. It put me in mind of the Ballets Russes’ L’Après-midi d’un Faune, which premiered exactly one hundred years ago in 1912, but unlike the veiled, homoerotic undertones in Nijinsky’s controversial work, there was nothing discreet here.
Hancock and McPheeters cast the audience in the role of the spectator, but instead of simple theatergoers, it was as if we were observing some sort of alien life forms in a zoo or natural history museum. The accompanying narrative, which described the Poor Lost Somtime Boys as dreaming “only of fucking in the woods” played in a loop and Hancock’s solo, performed with his back to the audience as he faced McPheeters, read like an animal’s mating ritual.
Their movements were bold as they traced diagonal patterns along the stage. Hancock rolled up from the ground with his hands clasped together, shifting his weight from his knees into his feet in an elegant, effortless swing. Whereas Sticky seemed indeed stuck on a good idea, Poor Lost Sometime Boys took that idea and danced it.
Kat Richter is a freelance writer and teaching artist. Her work can be found at www.katrichter.com.