Sex, Lies and Fairytales

Local Arts Reviews


Sex, Lies and Fairytales

McCullough Theatre, Jan. 30

The dancer lifts one leg slowly, the knee rising as languidly and deliberately as the moon, the calf and foot then swinging forward and arcing back toward the floor at an agonizing pace, the effort of the muscles as clearly evident as the sense of purpose in the dancer. As her foot finally comes to rest on the floor, we sense this is the first step on a journey, one of great significance to which the dancer is deeply committed.

This moment – commandingly executed by Laura Cannon – launched the first dance in Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks' season opener, a concert that seemed as much about journeys as about sex, lies, or fairy tales. The six choreographers who contributed dances all appeared to be charting in some way passages made in life or legend, the way we get from here to there, the things that happen along the way, and what they mean.

In Andrea Beckham's "Through the Mountain" – the most straightforward of the journeys – we went on a pilgrimage with Cannon and fellow dancers Shonna Walden and Jillian Ardoin. The three very simply made their way from the front of the bare stage to the back down a pathway of light, occasionally being blown down or off the path into darkness and struggling to get back. The dance's simplicity gave it a mythic scope – the feel of a journey through life – with the dancers' persistence, marked in Beckham's slow, determined movements and the melancholy score by pianist Billy Wolfe, providing poignant resonance.

We went on a journey into the underworld to re-examine the plight of the Greek heroine loved by Orpheus. In "A Few Questions About Eurydice," a narrator recounted the names of women who had been raped in the tales and dramas of ancient Greece as images of violence were projected on a screen and on choreographer Andee Scott, who moved slowly inside a large white construction resembling a lacy cage. Emerging from it and shedding her dress, the naked Scott underscored the vulnerability of all women and the lack of safety for them in our violent upper world.

We took a journey through a day, with a patient on an operating table; a drunken, possibly suicidal cowboy; a couple in a bedroom; and someone encountering a traffic accident while driving to work. Holly Williams' "Extraordinary Day" combined video projections of her characters' experiences with images of flowing water and the moon and spoken word by Zell Miller III to supplement danced expressions of anxiety and tenderness. In showing us these five different individuals independently confronting their mortality, Williams opened our eyes to their shared humanity and the extraordinary in every day.

We took a journey inside our heads, with Theresa Hardy's "Compassionate Resolution of the Psychological Dilemma," which linked a projected drawing of a brain with the labyrinth that housed the Minotaur of Greek legend. Hardy and dancers Laura Cannon and Allison Orr appeared wearing bolero jackets and affecting the moves of a matador, suggesting daring heroes of the psyche – agents of reason or compassion, perhaps – braving the maze of the mind to face down the beast within.

Even in as abstract a work as choreographer Leslie Dworkin's "Rise," there was a journey: Four dancers started out performing rolls, flips, twists, and poses independently in sequence, then moved to performing them simultaneously, then to performing them with partners – a progression from solitude to community.

The final dance seemed least like a journey, but it did take us on a walk with the King. For "The King and I," Allison Orr utilized three women and a trio of Elvis impersonators (late Vegas era, thankyaverramuch) to playfully delve into our relationship with this seminal pop culture figure. Orr mixed silly images – three Elvises gliding across the stage on scooters, women being knocked down by flying footballs – with windmill arms, popping knees, and twitching buttocks made legendary by the King. As the women re-created these and other gestures, it became clear what we have taken from Elvis and absorbed into ourselves. Yes, Elvis has left the building, but doesn't he rock on in us? A pleasant thought to ponder on the journey home from this string of intriguing journeys.

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Sex, Lies and Fairytales, Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks, Andrea Beckham, Through the Mountain, Theresa Hardy, Compassionate Resolution of the Psychological Dilemma, Andee Scott, A Few Questions About Eurydice, Extraordinary Day, Rise, The King and I, Billy Wolfe, Shonna Walden, Jillian Ardoin, Holly Williams, Zell Miller III, Allison Orr, Laura Cannon, Leslie Dworkin

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