by Emma Elsmo for The Dance Journal
Brian Sanders has done it again. His ingenious imagination and clearly articulated visions are brought to life in his most recent creation Adventures In The Arctic Elf Trade and Other Tales From The Pole. This holiday spoof filled with acrobatics, aerial and audience participation takes viewers through the history and evolution of elves around the world. Audiences can expect the standard level of jaw-dropping, gravity-defying antics that so often fill Sanders performances, as well as the addition of a “cheeky” fashion show, candy cane pole dancing, and a fake blizzard to boot.
In an iridescent blue room, the madness began as an omnipotent voice commenced telling the story of the elves. One dancer came running down the Reindeer Runway with literal fire on his feet followed by candy cane poles and flipping elves. The cast of five proceeded to exhibit both the naughty and nice sides of Elvan history. From cagey choreographed fighting, sound-tracked by the angsty tidings of Bjork, to melancholy movement inspired by north pole homesickness, Sanders creates a world in which you opt to ignore the typical merry holiday elf stereotypes.
The show also had an undeniable erotic side in which the dancers toyed with crossing from holiday hilarity to holiday sexy. Lucas Mikan delivered as an American style elf- clad with a scarf and booty shorts- by dancing on a large, symbolically phallic seal. Meanwhile, Jess Adams and Laura Jenkins entered the space dressed in playful aprons after having laid down a fuzzy blanket and a clear topped table. As an FYI for anyone who wishes to attend the show, willing and unwilling audience participation are a key part of Adventures In The Arctic Elf Trade, and yours truly ended up being a volunteer for this particular section. While I can’t comment on what was happening above me, as the participant I ended up under the clear table with Adams and Jenkins dancing above me on the now wet table in white bikinis. As one could imagine it was an experience, and one very much in line with Sanders’ sexual mode of operation.
Every dancer showcased their individual strengths, both artistically and physically. Aaron Mitchell executed gasp-inducing jumps followed by death-defying lifts, and John Kasten’s stunning aerial pole dance sent chills through the room. Mikan not only delivered in performance but he executed shocking strong tap dancing that transitioned to break-dancing in mere seconds. Both Adams and Jenkins had picturesque lines and the strength the smash acrobatic passes down the runway. With seven more chances to see this non-traditional holiday spectacular, Adventures in The Arctic Elf Trade provides viewers with excitement on every level imaginable, and I wouldn’t recommend taking your kids.