Review: Play

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By Lisa Kraus

When dance legend Pina Bausch suggested that and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Shantala Shivalingappa work together, she unleashed a fount of joy for the artists and their audiences. These two virtuosos – he in the kind of contemporary dance that fluidly traverses the space between air and floor, and she a stellar exemplar of Indian Kuchipudi dance -- delightedly push each other and their musician counterparts into passages of extreme beauty, speed and refinement.

Unfolding on a set of mobile platforms with a grid of moving panels for a backdrop, Play is a digest of game structures and cultural exchanges. While trying on each other’s forms, Shivalingappa gamely tumbles to the floor, rocking see-saw-like on her knees, and Cherkaoui does a creditable job of echoing her complex stamping rhythms and elegant hand mudras. The terrific musicians bring in strains of medieval plainsong, flamenco, and taiko drumming, and frequently all the performers join each other in singing.

Most exquisite were Cherkaoui’s marionette-master manipulations of Shivalingappa’s head and hands and the way this scene and many of Play’s other images recur at the end in a dense, layered flashback.

The one missing collaborator was a dramaturg; Play’s episodic quality undercuts the power of its materials and performers. Still, it’s a ‘do not miss.’

The artists will also take part in Saturday’s free symposium: ‘Conversations on Cross Cultural Identity in 21st Century Performance.’

$25-30. 8 p.m. 9/16 & 17. Prince Music Theatre, 1412 Chestnut St. The Prince also is the site of a free symposium, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 9/17. 

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