Danceworks’ fascinating “Lying”
Eight dances, more than eight choreographers, one theme: Lying.
Artistic director Dani Kuepper imposed that theme on the latest Danceworks Performance Company show, which opened Friday. Maybe it fits that the dancemakers approached lying obliquely rather than directly.
Guest artist Amii LeGendre, working with bits of text from a story by Jonathan Safran Foer, placed Kelly Anderson, Simon Eichinger, Kuepper, Christal Wagner and guest Javier Marchán Ramos in shifting pairs and uneasy alliances of twos and threes in I Didn’t Mind Being Alone, I Just Hated It. A bit of it, a sort of group recitation of lines from the story, made the dancers appear uncomfortable in their own skins — a lie, in dance terms. But LeGendre couched the bulk of the dancing curving, sinuous, forceful phrases with suddenly soft, elegant finishes. Lying is fine, but so is the indisputable truth of beautiful bodies in motion.
In her Tango’d Web of Lies, Melissa Anderson changed partners in every possible combination with Eichinger, Wagner and Brent Radeke. They danced classic tango steps — to Carlos Gardel’s classic La Cumparsita — but with a dainty delicacy that made them feel false. They wove classic cheaters’ lies — I’m divorced, well separated, really, well, about to be separated — neatly into the rhythms of the dance and music.
Christal Wagner and Kim Johnson-Rockafellow mugged lies in Wagner’s One or Two Faces. The two leggy, athletic blondes looked smashing in taut black lace and big, jazzy moves, to beat-driven Latin music. When their eyes met, they flashed one another big, show-biz smiles. At all other times, their faces remained utterly deadpan. That gave this well-constructed dance an intriguing creepy edge.
Karly Biertzer assigned herself a solo that took full advantage of her very youthful face and big, expressive eyes. She concealed herself in various ways throughout Lipstick on My Eyes. She faced upstage, she squatted low to all but disappear into her black babydoll dress, she dipped and dodged to cover her face. When she did confront the audience — very nearby in the Danceworks tiny studio theater — she used her hands like veils, to frame those remarkable eyes.
Biertzer and Holly Keskey are relative newcomers to Danceworks. Keskey did not create a piece for this program, but she gave a strong account as a performer in several works. She’s small, substantial and muscular. She moves with explosive energy and speed, and she is a fierce presence. I especially liked her with Kuepper and Radeke in Simon Eichinger’s One of These Is. Keskey was the one Not Like the Other; the moment where she burst into sobs upon realizing her status was a moment to remember. She was flawless with Kelly Anderson and Liz Hildebrandt Tesch in Radeke’s austere, abstract Progress (that’s the correct title, it’s wrong in the program) and with four other women in Kuepper’s big finale, Embellishment.
The men, Radeke and Eichinger, are also relative newcomers. They bring a lot to DPC, which through most of its history has been all-female. They’re strong dancers and excellent actors. Eichinger excelled in the conceptually difficult Landing Is Hard, in which he plays a failing man in constant danger of fading away and falling. He interacted beautifully with Johnson-Rockafellow, his hard-pressed saving angel.
I promise you, I didn’t make the whole thing up. Or… did I?
Performance times for Lying are deceptive, so take note: 7:30 p.m. Friday Oct. 8 and Saturdays, Oct. 2 and 9; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3; and 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7. Tickets are $20 and $25 ($15 for students and seniors). Call Danceworks, 414-277-8480 ext. 6025. More info and links here.