Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: Gabrielle Revlock and Lionel Popkin

Merilyn Jackson revisits Gabrielle Revlock's "Share" and savors a first look at Lionel Popkin's "There Is an Elephant in This Dance."

Review: Gabrielle Revlock and Lionel Popkin

By Merilyn Jackson
FOR THE INQUIRER

Sometimes when a critic sees a dance the first time, it goes over her head. On a witty double bill with Lionel Popkin at Philadelphia Dance Projects' season opener at the Performance Garage on Friday, I saw Gabrielle Revlock's Share! a second time since it premiered in 2009.

I got the wit part back then, but not the "share." With Julius Masri performing his soundscape live off to one side, Bonnie Friel stands on a riser lip-synching "Red River Valley." Gregory Holt and Revlock dance Revlock's eccentric and often original choreography: standing in place, the right toe raised slightly, the buttock rocking up and down with the eyes rolled upward - a motif repeated throughout the dance until you get its slightly bored affect. Eventually the three begin removing multiple sets of underwear and exchanging them, but finally it all ends up in heaps on Friel - shared.

Popkin illuminated Philadelphia stages years ago, but we lost him to Trisha Brown's company and now to UCLA, where he teaches. His There Is an Elephant in This Dance is something you might have to see more than once.

Popkin, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Carolyn Hall, and Zornitsa Stoyanova warmed up the audience by coming out and chatting up individuals, creating a lovely connection between us. As Stoyanova donned the elephant costume, she asked an audience member to help her. When she danced, hopping, mincing along on her knees, flapping her trunk, we felt affection for her. The elephant seemed pensive, dejected, and then brightened at times, on stage as well as in Kyle Ruddick and Cari Ann Shim's ghostly video projected throughout.

Popkin riveted us with an upstage center solo done in one spot. Without moving his feet, he moved or shook every other body part, even his mouth, blowing air out at us, eyes twinkling. At times he could have been evading an insect. Or he'd just let his upper torso sway and sink into his hips. All the while, he never lost eye contact with the audience, and we loved it.

Houston-Jones (another Philly ex-pat) stomps and travels rapidly across the stage in a vigorous dance that ends abruptly as he saunters away, shrugging it off with a raised eyebrow. Popkin dances with Hall; they do a back crossover tango step, and she leaps high backward into his hands. Popkin puts on the elephant, does kazatskis in it - funny, sad. Sometimes you don't quite get a dance, but you know it was something heady.

 

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


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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