USTheater is devoted to plays, operas, and performances, American and international, performed and published in the United States. We also are open to new plays by playwrights.
All materials are copyrighted as noted. The blog is edited and much of it written by Douglas Messerli
Douglas Messerli | "Pure Ecstasy" (on Ezralow Dance's Primo Passo)
pure ecstasy by
Dance Primo Passo/ the
performance I attended with Lita Barrie was at the Bram Goldsmith Theater at
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills on July
influences of the Ezralow Dance Company’s new pieces gathered as Primo Passo are numerous, including the
choreography of Paul Taylor, Philobus, and Broadway musical theater
productions, the art of Robert Longo, and the music of David Lang. But in its
attention to the possible different meanings of “first step,” the seven pieces
of this collection of works, old and new, are entirely original in their
brilliant displays of athleticism.
In “Brothers,” two men, Gerald Espinosa
and Re’Sean Pates, embrace and spar with one another, drawing the other to the
self before sending him away again. In their couplings, moreover, the
“brothers” seem to not only to be developing and creating their familial
relationship, but exploring a kind of sexual relationship as well, as if they
were possibly new lovers determining whether or not they can maintain something
that might survive.
In “Foreign Tales,” huge lantern-like
objects are transformed into two women dancers, Kelsey Landers and Anthea
Young, who gymnastically turn inside out of their hoop skirts, resulting in
amazing parallel pas de deux with the males that take the viewer into seemingly
fantastical worlds wherein the human body literally becomes a series of
shifting shapes that make it difficult, at times, to know up from down,
Robert Longo’s marvelous works of art
represented in his “Men in the Cities” series becomes the subject of “Super
Straight is coming down,” danced by the full company, including Will Clayton,
Gerald Espinosa, Charissa Kroegeer, Kelsey Landers, Vanessa Nichole, Raymond
Ejiofor, and Sasha Rivero. Like Longo’s paintings, these besuited figures,
seemingly from the 1960s, seem to have been caught in an instant snapshot
(Longo was influenced by the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder) revealing a
series of violent-like grimaces of suffering business men and women.
To develop this work, soft balls were
thrown at dancers during rehearsals which revealed their reflexive reactions,
which, in turn, became the actual movements. Yes, the super straights may be
“coming down,” so to speak, as if they were being shot dead on the very urban
streets on which they work; but they do it with such jazz-inspired twists and
turns of the body that it is difficult, just as in Longo’s paintings, to know
whether they are in the last spasms of their lives or in pure ecstasy.
“Pulse,” with music by the wonderful American composer David Lang, takes
the Ezralow dancers into a complete new dimension as they slide and spin
acrossthe stage, stopping just long
enough to come together and break apart (a bit like the somewhat slower
encounters of “Brothers.”) The Chicago
Tribune described the remarkable push and pull of the dancers: “The
dancers, through flowing gestures, appear to spin imaginary helixes.” I prefer
the notion of their interactions as being like magnetic fields of individual
beings, attracted to and yet gravitationally pulled away from each other.
And finally, the humorous and lovely
“Chroma,” (with costumes by American Apparel and using the much-abused music of
Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube”) finds a way to literally shift and change
each figure into another, woman into man, man into woman, supine beings into
standing ones, creating a truly colorful world a bit like Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
I don’t know whether these dances and
the others included in Primo Passo
actually represent “first” steps, but, taken together, they certainly provide
us with a vision of remarkable original steps and movements that turn the human
body into forces that seem to defy gravity and amaze us with the contortions
these bodies are able to endure. As Daniel Ezralow shown us throughout his
career to date, his work so beautifully combines dance, theater, circus,
cinema, music, and other arts that it is utterly impossible not to take
pleasure in his stunning accomplishments, which the standing-room only audience
at the Wallis’ Bram GoldsmithTheater
clearly reiterated in their applause.