by Nicole Dekle
Play by Play
Hilary Easton and Company
Clark Studio Theater
February 16 through 18
Madcap scene-stealing opens Hilary Easton’s high-spirited program. In I Thought The Was My Solo (1993), four zany characters upstage one another with mounting frenzy and aggression. An oily toreador type (Rob Kitsos) brandishes his arms with exaggerated flamenco bravura, but his claim on the audience’s attention isn’t nearly as effective as the serene simpering of glamour girl Nancy Sakamoto. Frumpy Lisa Wheeler, in a red wig and ‘50s-style dress, performs stiff pelvic thrusts and textbook shoulder rolls that fail hopelessly at sultriness, while Lewis Bossing, in a bushy gray wig, looks like a mad
scientist who’s discovered a hopelessly passé vocabulary of angular dance movements. The farcical excess of their interaction could have become sprawling and unfocused, but the piece is so taut and well-timed alongside the witty score (by Marco Beltrami) that it enchants through the very last note.
In Disappearance Act (1993), the most formal piece on the program, the dancers are marvelously well-placed, agile, and energetic. They move nimbly from coiling barrel turns in the air to pliant falls that surrender to gravity only to spring back easily. Easton’s choreography here is abstract but never impersonal, sparkling with playfulness and musicality. The dancers imbue their movements with personality, and their partnering is warm, communal. Standing out among the dancers was petite, effervescent Pamela Cohen.
Commentary, a premiere, is a hilarious spoof of Olympics-style analysis. As Easton paces and warms up before the start of her routine, an old-fashioned voice-over (Charlie Mendoza) blithely recounts her preparations. Easton’s actual dance is a throwaway number full of furious arm movements and little else, but she feigns intense concentration, as though she were performing fouettés or double tours. The commentator analyzes her movements ad nauseam, inflating them out of all proportion. He orchestrates suspense by looking for her “signature movement,” and Easton gratifies him with a stiff pose in profile (“Ah, there it is!”). She wobbles on “the movement we’ve been waiting for” (a pivot turn to the knee), but with the help of “instant replay” the commentator determines just what went wrong. All the way through her radiant, grateful bows, Easton gives a perfectly modulated performance, ant the satire is right on target.
Tangle, a companion piece to Commentary, is more subdued. At the outset, the five dancers all wear T-shirts that label them – “generous”, “industrious”, “thoughtful”, “intelligent”, or “sweet”. Untroubled by these words, they dance closely together in fluid, supportive sequences. The community fractures, though, as one dancer begins dressing another in T-shirts with derogatory labels. Harmony reasserts itself when the dancers change to generic, all-white tops in the final section. Easton’s decision to end her program on a utopian note is consistent with her overall vision: Her dances redraw the world in strokes of good humor and warmth, and you leave her universe musing on how much fun it was to be there.