For more than a decade, Philadelphia audiences have enjoyed Gabrielle Revlock's smart dance frolics. Through props, witticisms, and playful moves, she has created a niche for her work as a form of dancey physical theater. In the hour-long Show No Show, which opened Thursday night at FringeArts, she partners with Russian contemporary dancer Aleksandr "Sasha" Frolov.
Russia, long the stronghold of ballet, came even later to contemporary dance than Eastern Europe. Observing Frolov's easy expressivity in his frolic with Revlock combined with his kinetically formalized body was not so much a revelation as a pleasure.
The two met almost two years ago during a residency at Omi International Arts Center overlooking New York's Hudson River Valley. "This is not a mannerly, polite meeting of two strangers," Revlock said in an interview. The hour-long work proceeds to show the awkwardness of collaborating with someone you don't know, the dynamics of shifting dominance from one partner to the other, their manipulative trickery, and a final alienation.
They begin lying in fetal positions opposite each other, hands touching, until they slide apart as the spot narrows down on the widening space between them in old-time silent-movie style, lit by a design created by Melissa Mann.
Once vertical, Revlock runs her hands down his limbs. Is she sizing him up for a suit, or as a suitor? He slaps her on her calves and arm muscles as though she's a horse he's thinking of buying. In another sequence, he grabs a window screen and chases her, alternately framing her and separating her from his desire. In the funniest bit, she captures him in a niche in the wall with the screens and prods him like an animal before snatching him out by the scruff of his neck.
Musical fragments of Sigur Rós and Morris Albert's "Feelings" cough in and around their spotty dialogue, some of it in Russian. While Frolov takes an extended lie-down, Revlock noodles around in goofy, self-satirizing abandon. In his solo turn, Frolov alludes to Revlock's signature prop, the hula hoop, mimicking her swiveling hips and her girlie gestures, which audiences know from earlier works. The section is priceless and cleverly juxtaposed to a potentially dotty dominatrix side of her personality when, in the final moments, Revlock betrays her new partner by abandoning him. Even so, the crowd was pleased with the turn of events.
Additional performance: 8 p.m. Saturday at FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Ave. Tickets: $20, adults; $15, students and 25 & under. Information: www.fringearts.com or 215-413-1318.