Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dance review: anonymous bodies & fidget

A new pairing joine an established on in reflecstions on identity. There are highs and not-so-highs, says Merilyn Jackson.

Dance review: anonymous bodies & fidget

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By Merilyn Jackson
FOR THE INQUIRER
Dance of the lower-case companies! Kate Watson-Wallacer, and Jaamil Kosoko are dancer/choreographers who recently formed anonymous bodies, and Megan Bridge and Peter Price, who make up a team they call fidget, have paired up this weekend at Christ Church Neighborhood House. Both partnerships engage in dance theater, live music, on-site installation, multi-media, social justice and political themes, and audience involvement. In a trend that’s been growing, if diminutively, they titled their show “us.” 
Another trend that’s been around for awhile has the performers on stage in costume and going through their paces before the show actually starts. Watson-Wallace, in a red jumpsuit, and Kosoko, in crimson-sequined crinolines around his neck instead of his waist, wore tinselly wigs that made them look, appropriately enough, like July 4th sparklers. The program notes said they were attending a funeral for the United States. But although they looked solemn, danced with flags, and Watson-Wallace took a series of violent death drops, there was little to suggest a funeral. 
They better reached their intention to defy genre, gender and identity when, Kosoko changed to a white suit, Watson-Wallace returned to the stage in a black suit, and both rolled their T-shirts up over their heads. Hiding their faces made them anonymous. Exposing their chests — black male skin in white and white female skin in black — made quite a nice statement, but not enough to flesh out this unfinished piece. Prior to the show they invited the audience to check out the scant “installation” on stage, but it piqued no one’s curiosity.
In Kosoko’s solo, other.explicit.body, he wore a cut-up sweatsuit graffitied with slogans: “Black Power” across his bottom. To live music by Brandon Shockley with a voice-over NPR interview of novelist and essayist Touré, Kosoko shadow boxes, drags a netted basketball around chained to his ankle, and writhes on the floor. Whether in defiance of or compliance with all these stereotyping props, he picks up books on black dance and the black body from a stack and reads their titles before slamming them to the floor.
Fidget’s Subject in Two Parts was reprised from four years ago, when I reviewed it at Community Education Center. Bridge, as ever, is a riveting dancer, whether deconstructing Jack Cole’s choreography for Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, projected and distorted behind her by Price, or standing naked pulling ticker tape from her mouth. In the second part, the electric presence of Annie Wilson joined John Luna, Lorin Lyle and Rebecca Sloan, recharging the group dynamics and the 
By Merilyn Jackson

FOR THE INQUIRER

Dance of the lower-case companies! Kate Watson-Wallacer, and Jaamil Kosoko are dancer/choreographers who recently formed anonymous bodies, and Megan Bridge and Peter Price, who make up a team they call fidget, have paired up this weekend at Christ Church Neighborhood House. Both partnerships engage in dance theater, live music, on-site installation, multi-media, social justice and political themes, and audience involvement. In a trend that’s been growing, if diminutively, they titled their show “us.”

Another trend that’s been around for awhile has the performers on stage in costume and going through their paces before the show actually starts. Watson-Wallace, in a red jumpsuit, and Kosoko, in crimson-sequined crinolines around his neck instead of his waist, wore tinselly wigs that made them look, appropriately enough, like July 4th sparklers. The program notes said they were attending a funeral for the United States. But although they looked solemn, danced with flags, and Watson-Wallace took a series of violent death drops, there was little to suggest a funeral.

They better reached their intention to defy genre, gender and identity when, Kosoko changed to a white suit, Watson-Wallace returned to the stage in a black suit, and both rolled their T-shirts up over their heads. Hiding their faces made them anonymous. Exposing their chests — black male skin in white and white female skin in black — made quite a nice statement, but not enough to flesh out this unfinished piece. Prior to the show they invited the audience to check out the scant “installation” on stage, but it piqued no one’s curiosity.

In Kosoko’s solo, other.explicit.body, he wore a cut-up sweatsuit graffitied with slogans: “Black Power” across his bottom. To live music by Brandon Shockley with a voice-over NPR interview of novelist and essayist Touré, Kosoko shadow boxes, drags a netted basketball around chained to his ankle, and writhes on the floor. Whether in defiance of or compliance with all these stereotyping props, he picks up books on black dance and the black body from a stack and reads their titles before slamming them to the floor.

Fidget’s Subject in Two Parts was reprised from four years ago, when I reviewed it at Community Education Center. Bridge, as ever, is a riveting dancer, whether deconstructing Jack Cole’s choreography for Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, projected and distorted behind her by Price, or standing naked pulling ticker tape from her mouth. In the second part, the electric presence of Annie Wilson joined John Luna, Lorin Lyle and Rebecca Sloan, recharging the group dynamics and the piece. And so the show was about the body, anonymous or seen. 

8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St. $12-$20; thefidget.org, anonymousbodies.org.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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