by Emma Elsmo for The Dance Journal | photo credit: Bill Hebert
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch a family portrait come to life? After having trekked through a windy snow storm to get to the performance, viewing M.F.A Candidate Christina Castro-Tauser’s thesis concert, Que Pasa Ahora?, at Temple University’s Conwell Hall satisfies this curiosity. The colorful characters and playful soundtrack remind one of wholesome family TV shows such as The Brady Bunch or Leave it to Beaver. This undeniably sweet show managed to created warmth on a night that had forgotten the meaning behind the word.
The performance began as soon the front door opened against the “bomb cyclone’s” gusts of wind. Singers and dancers greeted me, waving and twirling through hellos as they guided audience members towards the elevator. Upon settling into the seats, one of the performers began a monologue filled with musings on being the head of a family. The speaker, Rhonda Moore, teed up the family dynamics by introducing herself as abuela and energetically introducing her makeshift daughter to the audience, effectively destroying the fourth wall. Due to technical difficulties and inclement weather, the start of the show was delayed. However, house and work lights flipped on as the calm, collected dancers continued to move through the awkwardness.
As Que Pasa Ahora? progressed, the piece had the over-arching structure to inspire reflection on the ups and downs faced in day to day life. Centered around a dining room table, the entirety of the show was a reflection on the thriving life of one family as they aged, married, and had children of their own. Similar to the working father, stay at home mother lifestyle explored on family TV shows in the 50’s and 60’s, Tauser’s live accompaniment selection of TV theme songs suggested reminiscence of the corresponding shows. The mother daughter duo turned into a family of five- parents, two brothers, and a sister- rehashing their daily lives through dance for one another. Love filled the space as the family cuddled on a couch, sadness ensued as the older brother went off to war, surprise spread as dancers initiated movement from the theater seats, and laugher boomed as a moody teenager danced to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”. It was in these moments the family’s story truly started to connect.
Large group numbers and intimate family moments were sprinkled throughout the evening’s work, but the numerous duets depicting tenderness and loss truly struck a chord. Christina Castro-Tauser seemingly views romantic relationships as a critical part of celebrating family. Two relationships were depicted through duet, one being the relationship of the younger brother and his wife and the other the older brother and his partner. Dancers Courtney Pilgreen and Peyton Bellman performed a youthful duet with filled with coy, tender smiles and thoughtfully passionate lifts. While Emma Manion and Aaron Mitchell performed three solemn and mature works regarding separation due to military commitments. All of their duets were filled with sincere moments of longing, loss and relief as the couples experienced the hardships and joys faced in a committed relationship.
Overall, the dancing in the show proved to be a perplexing amalgamation of styles. Form ballet with Latin flare, to whacking mixed with improvised shaking, and even contemporary melded with showy jazz, there was a never-ending sense of wonder as the “family” switched from style to style. A mixture of live and recorded music helped to narrate the story as the performers danced through their character’s lives, and the costuming ranged from classy dresses and ties to pajamas and slippers. Tauser so cleverly ended the performance with a freeze frame of an endearing family “portrait,” perfect for hanging in the hallway of any quaintly happy home.