OUR TAKES ON THEATER, DANCE, MUSIC AND OPERA
The University of Texas at Dallas' Dance Residency Concert is high on energy—and food.
by Margaret Putnam
published Saturday, March 12, 2011
Oh-oh, video. (Now sing-song oh-oh, videothree times.)
Video sprouted up in every modern and contemporary work I have seen in the last few weeks, so when the back of the stage at the University Theatre at the University of Texas at Dallas lit up with images of roses and sea urchins Thursday night, my reaction was, oh-oh, it better be good.
Not to worry, however, as that was just a teaser, along with the sound track of a rooster crowing and other extraneous noises. Of the six works on the program, only one relied on video.
Exactly how we were to take the introduction of each dance beats me. A dancer swaggers to the front of the stage, pulls out a pen, and leans down on a long pink path and scribbles invisible marks. That is repeated at the beginning of every work, sometimes with two dancers marking the floor.
But other than that silliness, the show got off to a fine start with UT faculty member Michele Hanlon’s A Hundred Back Doors. Five dancers in peasant dress appear in a pool of light, making big, broad gestures, arms scooping the air and legs planted wide. As light covers the stage, they fan out. At the center, however, remains Rigoberto Hernandez, sturdily stationed in one spot as he swings arms wide and rotates his shoulders. His long, thick black hair flies too.
He is quite the most arresting dancer, bringing a much-appreciated masculine energy, more like a force of nature—a workhorse—than a sleek dancer.
Path, choreographed by faculty member and director Micki Saba, never got off the ground, although the initial arrangement of three duos and a loner sparked curiosity. Eventually, they disperse and cup hands as though to catch something in the air. At one point, they butt up against each other, or step over a pile of dancers. The music—clamorous and shrill—adds tension.
If nothing else, guest artist John-Mario Sevilla and Zubin Mohamad’s fruitcake of a dance, Pie in the Sky, was worth the price of admission (though Thursday’s performance was free)—so clever that even gag jokes took on a surreal air. With Kim Corbet sitting at one side of the stage hitting drums and gongs, Sevilla and Mohamad strode in carrying a large crate. (Just for some background, New York City-based Sevilla met Mohamad, based in Malaysia, at a hula concert, hit it off, and made plans to get together. Pie in the Sky is the happy result.)
Crate parked at the front of the stage, they return to place a small red box on top, of which we will later learn the contents.
The next trip brings a big, crinkly blanket, spread out picnic-style. Under it are two foil-wrapped containers. The men sit, open the containers and begin to eat what look like hardboiled eggs, making a big mess. One shoved food into the other’s gullet, getting more out of control. Food eaten, they grab the tinfoil plates and hit legs, knees and chest with giddy whacks. Soon they are chasing each other using the plates as weapons.
The look of youthful glee and spurts of dismay continues in this vein, building up when Mohamad lies hidden under the blanket turned into a tent. When he emerges, he’s wearing nothing but tiny red thong underwear with two lime-green dildos stuck in his pants. Sevilla pulls out his brown dildos, and once again, the two are slapping and tormenting each other.
They remember the red box, open it and find a cake. Of course, it gets shoved into Mohammad’s face before Sevilla decides he wants a bite too. That they can keep the gags going with such surprise and freshness gives one hope that far-out dance has room for fun.
The rest of the program was just icing on the cake, with standout performances by Danielle Marie Georgiou and Hernandez in Rebecca DeButts’ Physical Dyslexia, and again stand-out performances in Sevilla’s Hushaboom, performed by guest artists Erin Dudley, Vernon Scott and Sevilla. Not as whacky as Pie in the Sky (and the only dance with video projections), Hushaboom tossed out cartwheels, dancers lying on the floor with ankles intertwined, and slaps and runs.
Sevilla’s Las Lineas used Latin rhythms to give the seven dancers in the UT Dallas Dance Ensemble the chance to let loose.
◊ Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.