It was a foxy night with sexy dancers and smooth musicians. This outing has been in the works for a long time. Some of you know that I’m a huge fan of living legend Twyla Tharpe, and I was finally going to get my chance to see her production, Come Fly Away at the FOX Theater in downtown Atlanta. If you want to know how I feel about the magnificent Tharpe check out my article on Atlanta Ballet’s Big Secret. After inviting all of my art loving friends with no takers, and begging my father to come out and watch my elfin spawn, I enjoyed this one all on my own.
The dialogue in this production was created by the velvety lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s memorable songs. As the curtain opened we were greeted by a 14 piece band, an impressive sight on
its own. Instead of being an invisible presence they were introduced, appreciated and then accepted as an integral part of the production. The musicians were old friends by the time we got to know the characters.
While the band held the place of honor upstage on a platform, the action unfolded down-stage in a 1940’s night club. A bar was set up -stage right surrounded by a cluster of tables and chairs, which was matched by a couple more tables on the other side. Like the tables the dancers were scattered about as they would be in a popular hangout. Through the music and lyrics of Sinatra, Tharpe told the tale of adult flirtation, love, jealousy, sex and they finally came to terms with the fact that they all did it their own way.
By the way, this one wasn’t for the kiddies. I had contemplated taking my 6 year old, Lady “H”, and was glad I didn’t. After a small instrumental break, the story was told in various stages of undress.
This was definitely Broadway by Tharpe. The choreography was conventional enough to appeal to a wide audience but had the intelligent quirk the choreographer is known for. I think she did a great job working with the B’way genre but also giving her fans, the ones who think she is the dirt from which Post-modern and contemporary dance grew from, something to chew on.
The performers were polished and slick. They could kick their own ears and do multiple turns and leaps in their sleep. The ladies were leggy and bendy and the men were strong and dapper. Christopher Vo gave a perfect performance as the naïve bar tender Marty. He was wonderfully awkward as he tried to connect with his soon to be lover Betsy, played by the innocent Ramona Kelley. Believable as the inexperienced suitor, Vo didn’t sacrifice his technique to play the part and there wasn’t anything his body couldn’t do.
I also loved the magnetic performance of Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, playing the sultry cougar like Kate. She spent the entire show trying to seduce the pin stripe wearing Hank who was played by Martin Harvey. He matched her well in dramatic integrity and chemistry. They drove the story forward from the pure sexuality of the couple, to deceit and pathetic drunken attempts to regain attention. Eventually they fell in love. All the other characters were fantastic but this was the story line that got your little dance critic from curtain to curtain.
It was a flirt-fest danced and performed very well. Keep your eye out as it tours the country and go when it lands in a city near you.
The Movement In Stillness – “First Breath” by Travis Magee
“First Breath”, a new exhibition of photography by Travis Magee
The Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery
Film Society of Lincoln Center
There are these moments among skilled choreography and seasoned performances where you lose yourself. If you happen to be experiencing this, you will most probably hear a gasp or a groan. There is no language adequate to tell the tale later because they affect you in a primal, visceral way. These moments transcend language and are too intimate to describe. To those of you who don’t frequent the many exquisite dance events happening around the world today… this is the reason to see dance live! The bitter sweet dichotomy can perpetuate a frustration, that the experiences can’t REALLY be translated to anyone who wasn’t at the dance performances, sharing the adventure. These feelings lead to the question, “How do we bottle this?”
Dearly Departures: “A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call”
The Lucky Penny has become a cornerstone of Atlanta’s cutting edge dance and technology. Dearly Departures: A new dance by Blake Beckham and her impeccable motley crew of technicians and performers, at Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theater, have created yet another night of artistic excellence
The little black box theatre, more of a trapezoidal space is reminiscent of the old train stations lined with a long illuminated bench Stage Left, an “Old Skool” telephone booth Stage Right and a Split Flap display board hanging above. The experience begins with a Rolodex scrolling sound as the Split Flap illustrates very slow, movie style, credits. This sets a mellow tone, allowing the audience to hunker down in our seats and get comfortable. The lights dim then flicker off, in a “cool” and unusual manner, foreshadowing the unexpected and poetic experience to come.
The clickety clack of the display is overtaken by ambient music and lights go up on dancer Alisa Mitten. She smoothly makes her way around with long relaxed movements, allowing her fingertips to initiate her locomotion. As we watch, the Split Flap is feeding us contemplative ideas to ponder as the action unfolds.
“Away… Way back… Go… Go… Go back.” And a repeated mantra of “Begin again” & “Begin & End.”
T. Lang: A Woman Searching
The raw space at the Goat Farm is set up with four see through scrims hanging from the ceiling, situated in a square, to separate the performers from the audience. Seats are arranged in the round, meaning all the way “a round” where the action was about to take place. The first question of the evening is to figure out which side of the room we want to experience this evening from. Obviously, there is no right or wrong… just questions.
On June 7th, I found myself asking a lot of questions at the World premiere of T. Lang Dance Company’s performance of Post Up. The cast of nine extraordinary women were uniformly exposed in white bras and cherry red leggings. The uniformity brought to mind a complex woman or many women in a similar situation, perhaps battered or in a prison. An inquiry later enhanced by zig-zagged projections on the fabric we were looking through. The tastefully sparse costumes highlighted the performers’ beauty and I was reminded of how majestic women are, in all iterations, with different curves, hair lengths, textures and hues of skin.
The tone in this screened in cage was desperate, sad and played with themes of struggle and vulnerability but through it all a feminine strength became apparent. Not only through the athleticism of these prodigious artistic athletes but in an instinctual comradery that naturally exists between woman, especially at times of crisis.
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