otb: a.w.a.r.d. show – 1st night review

By Rosie Gaynor

Last night’s “The A.W.A.R.D. Show!” played to a full house at On the Boards. Tonight’s 300 seats have sold out. There are still tickets for Saturday and the finals on Sunday though. $15. A small price to pay for this dance buffet.

Advancing to the finals on Sunday is Deborah Wolf’s “The Hipdeep Family,” three dances set to song/narration from an album of Edward Gorey stories. The album, “The Gorey End,”is by the Kronos Quartet and the self-acclaimed “world’s foremost Death Oompah band” the Tiger Lillies. Wolf’s dance for seven men was Gorey-ly funny with a dash of Groucho Marx. It’s not an innovative concept and the movement was simple, but the piece worked. It was charming and danced with care and personality. I’ll be happy to see it again on Sunday. Links to the lyrics: Gin…Histoire de Kay… The Weeping Chandelier…

I suppose you could say the result of the evening was Wolf’s piece moving forward to the finals. But that would be discounting some good art and buying into the negative aspects of this competition rather than the positive. Foremost among the positive aspects of the competition: the opportunity to see a mix of dance companies.

Vincent Lopez and Lucien Postlewaite, members of the new company Whim W’Him, performed Olivier Wevers’ “Ultimatum.” It was created a few years ago for the Men in Dance program that runs in October at the Broadway Performance Hall. It’s the one that starts and ends with two pools of light, a man in each. Strong and light, the men blended ballet and hip hop. The dancers were not entirely grounded and not entirely airborne; the after-image is one of easy hovering. The work seems not so much about a progression as about a state, not so much about concept as about dance. And the dancers—well, wow! This would have been my first place vote had I voted. (I actually did stick a card in the ballot box, but it was my companion’s. He had gone to the Sitting Room to avoid the compulsory post-show Q&A which, actually, was not painful. The Q&A didn’t, however, change—or expand—my view of the works presented…that was something that the A.W.A.R.D. Show! programming is trying to foster, if I understand rightly. I liked getting to hear the artists talk, however.)

Ricki Mason’s solo was fascinating to me. I grew up with someone who got a kick out of shocking folks, so I wasn’t terribly interested in the provacateur/provacatrice aspect of the work’s concept, or in the gender ambiguity aspect either. What got to me was Mason’s dancing. She had this way of being in control, but not tensed up, as though her movement were the natural course of things, as though her body would do what she told it to and give the impression she wanted it to. Nothing looked awkward unless (I’m assuming) it was supposed to look awkward, except for a few moments on the chair. The pacing was effective, and it was cool when the backdrop filled with video of a girlier Ricki Mason and the two dance at the same time. Is that cliché already? I hope not. It really worked here.

Coriolis Dance Collective submitted Hannah Lagerway’s “He Said, She Said” to the Joyce Theater program. That’s a compliment any choreographer could appreciate. This four-person piece tells a tale of lust, of women on the make, of men on the take. I couldn’t shake the image of Barbies, not just because the two women wore the kind of sheaths we used to make out of left-over bits of bright fabric, but also because of the way we used to make our Barbies dance: dramatic clashing, limbs flashing, bodies rotating, bodies lifted high, bodies dragged around… I’ll say this, though: not even with Barbie dancing did we ever have the stamina Christin Call and Natascha Greenwalt Murphy showed last night. The men, Danny Boulet and Robert Talamantez had a looser, more flowing movement, but even more stamina. They seemed more comfortable with the movement, too. My favorite aspect of the choreography was the continual shift in groupings in the beginning: very cool. My biggest question was: How on earth did they get men’s sweat not to show? (It seems a silly little question, but it was a little freaky that they were working so hard and I couldn’t see anything. And it added to the surreal quality of the piece. And it’s a trick that many a dancer might be interested in.)

So, what’s on the Boards’ boards tonight? Catherine Cabeen, SD Prism Dance Theatre (Sonia Dawkins), Scott/Powell Performance, and Shannon Mockli.