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September 2004

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Juilliard Dance

Published: September 20, 2004
Category: review

A Dash of the Lewd

By Rachel Straus

For the bar crowd disposed toward Cosmopolitans and interested in a bit of naughty dancing, Joe’s Pub offers the novel cocktail experience of Dancemopolitan – a cabaret act that mixes cognac quality dancing, a dash of the physically lewd, and a lick of choreographic experimentation.

On Saturday, Joe’s Pub closed Dancemopolitan’s 2004 eight-part series with a cadre of veteran performers. The event also celebrated the birthday of Dancenow/NYC, the decade-old organization that brings dance to unconventional venues such as swimming pools and bars. In the period since September 8, Dancenow offered performances by more than 150 choreographers in 17 different events.

Saturday’s Dancemopolitan delivered works by downtown dancemakers introduced by quirky hosts David Neumann and Karinne Keithley, who at one point melancholically sang a Pink Floyd tune to the accompaniment of Ms. Keithley’s ukulele. At times they seemed like high school students in the last stages of drunkenness, fast on their way to passing out.

The evening found its momentum when former Paul Taylor dancer Mary Cochran shot onto the tiny stage in “Patriot Act Up” – an intoxicating torrent of energy. Ms. Cochran, dressed in a red majorette outfit replete with shiny gold buttons, marched, kicked, and slammed her piston strong-legs to match John Philip Sousa’s “The Thunderer” with a stamina that would make a Marine proud.

Ms. Cochran performed Sara Hook’s sharp, satiric choreography as though she were part nuclear warhead, part battery-operated doll, slamming her body onto her shins and twirling her upturned cherubic face without an iota of wonderment. Looking like Shirley Temple, she viciously sucked and dashed to the ground a red lollipop, shattering it into a dozen pieces like bombs bursting in air. Mimicking a politician, Ms. Cochran cradled a baby. She also stomped on it. Then she hauled a miniature American flag out of her skirt, manically waving it like a talisman of righteousness. In a bravura finish, Ms. Cochran pulled a toy gun out of her drawers and fired it at the heart of Joe’s Pub – the oak-paneled bar.

A taller but no less talented Todd R. Williams also made the cocktail crowd roar with delight in “Maniac.” Appearing in a high-cut leotard, Mr. Williams out-camped the famously campy “Flashdance” by expertly reducing the late 1980s movie to its core. Mr. Williams and his sidekick Jennifer Packard seductively dismantled their bras, donned mining helmets, and slurped diet Pepsi in front of an imagined television set broadcasting ballet, inspiring them to swoon like ballerinas in ecstasy.

When Mr. Williams changed into a red teddy, tossed his wet hair in wild abandonment, and flashed his impeccable glutes in time with the pulsating downbeat of Shandi’s “He’s a Dream,” he transformed into a striptease goddess. With the same wide-eyed innocent expression that made Jennifer Beals poster-girl famous, Mr. Williams ingenuously worked the floor. He made satire sweet and danced breathtakingly.

Chris Elam’s solo “Three Told Tin Man” likewise brewed bodily intensity. Mr. Elam folded into Houdini-style contortions, raising the question whether he is more extraterrestrial than man. Traveling across the stage on one fist and one leg – while his torso made friends with the crevice of his hip – Mr. Elam never struggled. With exquisite body control, his performance made the outlandish manifest. When he clapped his hands together while balancing on three toes, I expected him to vanish into thin air.

The other six dances delighted in fits and starts. Alexander Gish pushed together dancer Hilary Clark’s enormous breasts with schoolboy enthusiasm in “Rapture.” In “Suite Dolly,” dancer Jennifer Uzzi, swallowed by a voluminous wedding gown, bent her spine so far backwards that the pressure of her impending marriage appeared to take on physically dangerous implications. In “Float” Isadora Wolfe and Julian Barnett popped from the floor like felines who had learned to break dance.

Moments that warranted a slug from the closest cocktail included Keely Garfield and Rachel Lynch-John’s dogin-heat pelvic pulsing in “Disturbulance” and Jane Gabriels’s sophomoric outcries in “Only Wanting To.”

The evening also included “Crossroads of Life,” in which dancers Fabrice Lamego and Marden Ramos’s outstretched limbs appeared cramped by the tiny dimensions of the stage. Joe’s Pub can’t accommodate a large number of dancers but it joyfully presents theatrical minded dance skits. Culturally inclined imbibers, of course, lap it up.

See the article at New York Sun

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