Austin Festival of Dance

Local Arts Reviews

Austin Festival of Dance: Bare Chests and Strobe Lights

Paramount Theatre,

April 14

For the past 10 years, Charles Santos and the Austin Festival of Dance have opened Austin's eyes to the larger world of dance out there and raised quite a bit of awareness and money for AIDS Services of Austin. This year, for the annual offering of spectacularly diverse modern dance, theatre, ballet, and jazz companies, AFD and the Paramount Theatre hosted visiting companies Parsons Dance Company, Mark Dendy Dance and Theatre, Lisa Giobbi Movement Theatre, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance, Houston Ballet, and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, as well as Austin-based Tapestry Dance Company, Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks, Ballet Austin, Zachary Scott Theatre Center, and Tina Marsh and Sally Jacques. Interestingly enough, within the diversity were some recurring themes.

One theme was skin. Bare chests, rippling muscles, transparent costumes, and flesh-toned unitards ruled the evening. It was refreshing to see bodies rather than bulky costumes. Lisa Giobbi even used her body as a costume in a hilariously spooky solo with one perfectly angled lighting instrument. Her hands, chin, and nipples created a rockin' goblin shadow behind her on the backdrop to the hormone-laced sounds of Aerosmith. Ballet Austin premiered a delicate semi-nude duet beautifully danced by Chris Hannon and Gina Patterson. Side-light, the best friend of dance, intensified the intimate atmosphere created by undulating bodies falling and catching each other. It was riveting and deserving of the wild applause afterward.

Mark Dendy's company, long known for shunning excessive costumes, used spare pieces to great effect in a series of excerpts from the larger piece, "I'm going to my room to be cool now, and I don't want to be disturbed." Two men in swim trunks strutted, flirted, and flexed for each other in an outrageously sensuous and humorous duet to Chaka Khan and Rufus' "Tell Me Something Good," highlighting the heavy breathing funk with sleek and sinewy isolations. Later, draped in fringed hula skirts and sporting bare chests, three "back-up dancers" and their leader shimmied across the stage to Ike and Tina Turner's "Rollin' on the River." Athletic and playful, Dendy's work appealed to the impulse to lip-sync and dance for the mirror.

Another theme of the evening was "Look ma, no hands." The choreographers reached into their bags of tricks and presented trapeze work (Giobbi), rope work (Jacques), and strobe-light work (Parsons). The soloist performing Parsons' "Caught" flashed the strobe only at the height of his multiple leaps, making him appear to float above the floor of the darkened stage. All the audience could see was a brief image of him running, leaping, walking, and the afterimages of white pants. I want to see it again.

Technically speaking, the show was shaky. What happened during the first intermission? Half the audience was still in the lobby when the second section of the show began, and confused patrons streamed into the house during the trapeze piece, which was performed at least 15 feet in the air without a net. It was frustrating for the audience and downright dangerous for the dancers. This, coupled with other technical snafus, compromised the smoothness of the otherwise incredible show.

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Charles Santos, Austin Festival of Dance, AIDS Services of Austin, Mark Dendy Dance and Theatre, Parsons Dance Company, Lisa Giobbi Movement Theatre, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance, Houston Ballet, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks, Tapestr

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