The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/arts/2006-10-13/410251/

Arts Review

Reviewed by Robert Faires, October 13, 2006, Arts

We Are Normal, Cha Cha Chaaa

Clear Springs Studio, through Oct. 14

Running time: 45 min

Girls just want to have fun.

Cyndi Lauper's observation of old still holds true, or so it appears in the latest production from Yellow Tape Construction Company. For three-quarters of an hour, the five women who constitute the cast of from We Are Normal, Cha Cha Chaaa run, jump, skip, caper, chase one another in and out of doors, fall into one another's arms, roll on the floor, throw themselves against walls, and play with feathers (lots of feathers) for what looks to be the sheer pleasure of it. They throw themselves into these activities and pretty much everything else they do with an energetic abandon, and the expressions on their faces radiate an undiluted exhilaration of the kind we see in children. Indeed, for this viewer, the dance suggests nothing so much as five kids hard at play on a long summer's day. When one dancer runs full tilt across the studio floor, then stops just inches from the audience members ringing the space and stares briefly into the distance, we can't tell what she sees, but we can recognize in her gaze the pure wonder of an innocent person discovering something astonishing in the world. When another glances over a shoulder at a companion before she slumps backward, forcing a companion to catch her, we catch the familiar smirk of a kid playing a prank on a friend. When one dancer sits outside the studio, her face pressed against the glass of a door, watching the rest in a group on the inside, we see the utterly inconsolable loneliness of the youngster left out of the crowd.

That tension between who's in and who's out figures prominently in the early part of the dance, with four of the women – Lisa Del Rosario, Vidya Ramirez-Wheeler, Holly Wissmann, and the show's choreographer, Amanda Butterfield – moving together as a group and the fifth, Melissa Ann Rentrop, observing them from a distance, then tentatively seeking a place among them. In places, We Are Normal, Cha Cha Chaaa seems to focus on rituals of acceptance, those rites of initiation that we're sometimes required to pass before we can be considered one of the gang, in the community, normal. Because feeling excluded can be so emotionally trying, and never more so than when one is young, we're willing to put up with those tests to be included, and Rentrop's face all but bleeds with anxiety and a determination to be accepted. Eventually, her character is, and the dance moves on to explore some of the dynamics within a group: who leads, who follows, who plays with whom, who teases whom, who teams with whom to tease whom. And as we can all recall from experience, such dynamics are often colored by the rites of initiation and how they played out.

That may make this work sound much more like a sociological treatise than it is, in performance anyway. Watching it, you're more likely to be taken by the whirl of motion, the vigor of it and exuberance of its execution, by the dancers' deliriously childlike attitudes, racing from anticipation to surprise to mischief to annoyance to delight to, inevitably, exhaustion. This is, as much as anything, a burst of youthful exhilaration, like you'd feel when school is out and that long, hot season of freedom stretches before you, and you get caught up in it. At one point, Cari Palazzolo, who provides live vocals to an irrepressibly bouncy score throughout, sings, "All you wanna do is dance with me." And right then, yeah, that pretty well sums it up.

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