Joe Goode Performance Group Rambles Through Kirkland

Written by Mariko Nagashima
Joe Goode Performance Group in The Rambler
Photo by RJ Muna
In an effort to integrate more dance into their arts programming, KirklandPerformanceCenterpresented the Joe Goode Performance Group this Saturday evening with a one-night-only performance of The Rambler. Based in San Francisco, the JGPG troupe is currently touring this clever and entertaining production across the country. Billed as “Clint Eastwood meets Siddhartha,” the description is apt; at times pensive and philosophical, a current of quirkiness with a touch of Old West sentiment runs throughout The Rambler. Goode’s unique form of dance-theater utilizes singing, dancing, and dialogue to create an accessible and engaging work. Joe Goode himself opened the show (in a white suit, matching white Stetson, and bright red sneakers, no less) and eased the audience into receiving art with a reading of three short poems. Dancers trickled onstage during the second poem with slow sweeping movements that loosely reflected the words (“everyone’s looking for freedom”), letting the audience settle comfortably into viewing movement.

The program unfolded in a series of vignettes that delved into the various meanings and repercussions of the word “rambler.” Is the rambler merely a quixotic wanderer? What of attachments and the people he leaves behind? Is rambling a necessity to finding freedom and oneself, or is it an escapist avoidance mechanism? The work conjured and explored these ideas by mixing dialogue with surprising and mesmerizing movement. First epitomizing the wandering-spirit ethos, a man in a poncho and sombrero stalked across the stage drawling, “I’m leaving today. I’m going away.” Next, Goode perfectly captured the excitement and youthful vigor that accompanies the beginning of a journey: a man feverishly rubbed his hands together proclaiming how great it would be when he got “there.” Though he longed to arrive, he never seemed to get up the nerve to leave and just repeatedly scurried through rows of tree-like dancers. This dissolved into a duet where the two men sang an a cappella ditty about interstellar rambling on a rocket ship. They traced trajectories with their fingertips, and, though most was gestural, the movement never edged toward mimicry or triteness.

Joe Goode Performance Group in The Rambler
Photo by RJ Muna 
The mood sobered with a woman sitting alone at a table pondering the flip side of the rambling lifestyle; she is the “bound one,” always left behind. In progressive scenes she became encased in a white plastic shell until eventually a mannequin replaced her, immobilization the apparent consequence of staying put. Another woman pondered the practicalities of rambling and indignantly asked, “Why is it always men who ramble?” While dancing around and over a group of chairs, she wittily pointed out that rambling is a luxury for those who don’t have work to do. Goode also personified sexual “rambling” with a towering woman (she perched atop two men who peeped out from each layer of her petticoats and hilariously mouthed her monologue with her). The ingénue extolled, “It’s just sex!” and “We don’t have to own each other like stuffed animals!” before merrily sweeping offstage.

While the performance featured many theatrics, the dancing more than held its own. The partnering work was especially brilliant with cantilevered lifts that sent feet soaring overhead, and gorgeously fluid transitions. Broad and lush, the movement thoroughly captured the wanderlust essence. Goode’s use of spoken word throughout the piece emerged as a finely crafted tool that engaged the audience, offered humor, and created a stronger impact than movement would have alone. The complementing words and movement phrases provided multi-faceted ways to digest each concept.

A wonderfully accessible show, this was a perfect performance to further immerse Eastside audiences with dance. The Joe Goode Performance Group was incredibly received by the Kirkland audience, hopefully indicating this won’t be the last time they pass through the area. The KirklandPerformanceCenter will also be presenting the local Khambatta Dance Company in India Calling on March 16, 2012.