Posts Tagged ‘South Pacific’


Sunday, September 30th, 2012

By James Jorden

Of hundreds of juicy anecdotes in Ken Mandelbaum’s indispensable volume Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Broadway Flops, one stands out perhaps a little more than the others. It’s about a show called Reuben Reuben which closed out of town in 1955. This was a through-composed absurdist piece by Mark Blitzstein, and Mandelbaum reports that on the opening night of the show over 300 audience members walked out of the Shubert Theater in Boston. (more…)

Post-modern Dance Competition

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Seven minutes can feel like an eternity. Or at least that was my thought halfway through the second night of “Festival Twenty Ten” at Dance Theater Workshop. Now in its 16th year, the September 8-11 event featured ten pieces per night. Curated by Robin Staff, the artistic director of Dance/NOW [NYC], it gave 40 choreographers the opportunity to make concise works less than seven minutes long. Yet only three of the ten choreographers, who presented dances on September 9, rose to the occasion. And they, unlike the others, didn’t push it by going to the 6:59-minute mark.

The festival organizers also asked the audience to vote for their favorite number. Called the DanceNOW Challenge (no, I’m not kidding), this participatory process will culminate with one choreographer winning a week-long creative residency in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (the home of the festival’s artistic director), a $1000 stipend, a temporary, paid teaching position at DeSales University, and 20 hours of Manhattan rehearsal space.

Voting, however, is never what it’s cracked up to be. On Thursday night certain works received rousing hands, despite these dances ho hum choreographic and/or performed qualities. The audience, filled with friends and family, was not an impartial lot. I wonder whether the Dance/NOW people will address this papering-the-house problematic. How will the votes be weighed?

My favorite work was Throwaway. Choreographed by John Heginbotham, a Mark Morris dancer, the work wooed as it made fun of the festival’s implicit challenge: to demonstrate craft and deliver an understandable message in seven minutes. In a white bolero jacket, spandex pants, and lacy socks, Brian Lawson appeared like a 1980s suburban teen enamored with Michael Jackson. Lawson Vogued with deadpan demeanor and with the ennui of a TV channel surfer. The music by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo was appropriately canned and grooveless. When Maile Okamura joined Lawson under his spotlight, complementing his gestural dis-earnestness and retro costume, Throwaway felt like a cross between Amateur Night at The Apollo and a post-modern dance purification rite.

My runner-up favorite works were A Revolution by Jim Carroll by Iain Rowe and Some Enchanted Believin’ by Maura Nguyen Donohue. But the only connection I could make with Rowe’s work and his Jim Carroll title was the costuming. Carroll, whose Basketball Diaries describes his adolescent descent into heroine and prostitution, appeared to be referenced in Rowe’s choice of a thick, black leather belt that looked vaguely punk or S&M or both. Rowe’s snippet of a solo proved mesmerizing  because he never faced the audience and he never moved. Instead his long, expressive torso and arms undulated like a flame above that black belt, or (but this is pushing it) like a soul seeking to ascend from the blackness of hell.

Donohue’s work, which closed the program, also mined the homage vein. Her spoof on South Pacific was negligible in dance terms. But as a faux musical number it included the following integrated elements: the earnest strumming of guitarist Perry Yung with the joyful vocalizations of Rick Ebihara (who also played the accordian), the marriage of ballet to pseudo Polynesian dance, and four roped-in audience members (who were lassoed at the waist). This number was and looked like a finale.

Addendum: Ellis Wood won the DanceNOW Challenge for her piece titled MOM, which was performed on September 10. The press release stated that the voters did not include the audience, but a panel of choreographers, educators, administrators, critics, and the organizer’s directors. Audience voting participation got the boot.