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Flash Review 1, 6-8: Stairway to Headliners
Dancenow Brings Rock 'n' Roll Heaven to the Pub

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2006 Maura Nguyen Donohue

NEW YORK -- Dancenow/NYC knows how to deliver dance to the uninitiated and experienced alike. Its dancemOpolitan series at Joe's Pub has been serving the perfect cocktail of beer and bite-sized dances to parched and packed crowds for three years. The recent Thrash and Rock mix, as imbibed last Friday night, was a heady blend of the sexy and the silly with just a spritz of the salient shot in.

Hosts Nicole Berger and Nicole Wolcott, a.k.a. The Nicoles introduced the evening with a boisterous bit of schtick that ended with the two guzzling cans of Budweiser while dressed in headbands, fishnets and Jane Fonda workout era inspired leotards. Someone back by the bar hooted "Take it off!" and Wolcott gamely smiled and let us know that she would indeed oblige.

I'm a rock chick. I choreographed a floor routine for my high school gymnastics team to Led Zeppelin. The band's black light posters covered my entire dorm room. The first ... ahem, date with the man I would years later marry and make babies with was spent listening the The Song Remains the Same. I've always wanted to do a full-evening Zeppelin program, but it's just too sacred. So I was up for whatever I thought Tyler Gilsrap was going to do with "Black Dog," one of the band's most unabashedly thrashing and unruly songs. Bassist John Paul Jones had wanted to write a song that people couldn't dance to. Unfortunately, Gilsrap apparently wanted to choreograph a dance that people couldn't dance to. Performers Erika Pujic, Jenifer Maibus and Terrance Poppular spent most of the song just doing the playful antics thing, fighting over a gold purse and sucking on a pacifier. It looked like the kind of spoof a bunch of campers would put together for one another on the last night of their summer vacation.

After that minor bump, the program cruised through a series of solid solos, beginning with Stefanie Nelson's "Oh Alice" for Saar Harari. Nelson matched Jefferson Airplane's acid rock anthem "White Rabbit" with movement as ragged and disturbing as Grace Slick's voice. Harari executed a continuous cycle of jerks and spasms with a kind of iron-clad abandon always just on the verge of falling over the edge, or in this case into someone's Chardonnay. Harari performed as if the song was coursing through his veins and taking him for a wild and bumpy trip. Berger's "Mercedes Benz," to music by Janis Joplin was full of understated hand gestures that almost bordered on being too literal a portrayal of the lyrics, but her pace and shifting quality kept the work moving and engaging. Wolcott deftly handled the pub's small stage in "Anthrax," to music by Gang of Four. She sliced and swung her way through an explosive dance that at times seemed to defy the confines of the constrained space.

Ellis Wood provided one of the evening's highlights, performing her solo "Stella," to Rufus Wainwright's "Oh What a World." I've reviewed this solo before, when it was part of a Dance Theater Workshop program, and loved it then, but what a treat to see it so up close and personal. Wood's solos rank among my favorite choreographic portrayals of women. Onstage she brings together a vulnerability and offsetting bawdiness that excites and unsettles. On Friday night she was clearly the veteran artist, ferociously exquisite and revealing nuances of gender play and performance that surpassed her fellow artists. In a night full of hot chicks in little clothing she took us through a fierce emotional journey with fleeting glimpses at the depth of a woman's power, anger, flexibility and raunch. Her movement swelled up and rolled past us like a dark chocolate river, thick, deep, rich and ever so slightly bitter.

Ashleigh Leite's "One Tall Blonde," to Janis Joplin was engaging. Leite stood on high black heels, sporting a blonde wig and a very short black baby doll dress designed by Ruby Rox. She spent much of the dance tossing her arms forward as if trying to shake off the trappings of beauty before eventually shaking off her wig. Megan Williams performed a literal dance interpretation of David Bowie's "Oh You Pretty Things." Just imagine -- "Wake up you sleepy head, Put on some clothes, shake up your bed, Put another log on the fire for me, I've made some breakfast and coffee, I look out my window and what do I see, A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me...." I found myself actually wringing my hands at what dance becomes in other people's.

Julian Barnett, ironically the only male choreographer on a rock-inspired show, strapped a sack on and offered a bit of testosterone flavored dance with a funny, shifting portrayal of dorky boy and forceful hunk, "Dropkick Cocker," to music by Joe Cocker, Jared Coseglia and Jimi Hendrix. Barnett raced around the space like the school nerd evading the football team, until Hendrix's riffs ripped and he burst into a flash of rock splits and flying arms, eventually ripping off his sweater and shirt and evening the score on a breast heavy evening with his fantastic abs. On his back was written "Dropkick Me," but this is the guy version of the adolescent ugly duckling story. Computer nerd is going to kick your ass. This is Barnett, with whom I've worked before, as I like him best: boyish, rowdy, playful and virile.

Sara Joel's "Vegas Baby," to the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps," began with the choreographer facing away from the audience with a boa draped across her shoulders and little else. Two full body masqued mannequin women stood facing her and a couple of pimpin' thugs stood off to the side with flashlights focused on the stage like follow spots. Joel rolled her shoulders to get the audience going and then turned around to reveal an eight-month pregnant belly covered in a collection of tiny mirrors, a human disco ball. The moment brilliantly spoofed an inane song. Once the sight gag settled there wasn't much to the dance, but in general, the audience seemed impressed with Joel's headstand. Apparently, though dancemOpolitan brings in a diverse audience, I don't think that includes too many prenatal yoginis.



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