Blurred 2007 Eitland

Blurred Borders Dance Festival at City College’s Saville Theatre


(Presented by Patricia Rincon Dance Collective and Sushi Performance and Visual Art)
A Review
June 12, 2007

“Using martial arts as a muse for a dance theater work could easily fall into a mess of clichés, but in “Swallow Touches the Water,” Yu Dance Theatre successfully bends the discipline to create surreal images of physical combat, connections and nationalism.

“Yu’s San Diego premiere is one of three offerings at the Blurred Borders Dance Festival this weekend. Curated by Patricia Rincon, this eighth installment of the fest is a full evening, more than two hours, with Yu, the Patricia Rincon Dance Collective and actor-dancer Rodney Mason.

“Yu’s company director, Cheng-Chieh Yu, has performed her work internationally and is an associate professor at UCLA. A native of Taiwan, her work is highly influenced by Chinese disciplines. The title, “Swallow Touches the Water,” refers to a movement phrase in the Chinese martial art form, Ba Gua Zhang. For her dance, Yu twists the familiar circling face-offs and fluid hand poses and takes the audience on a strange journey. It opens with Yu circling a light pole supported by a tire. She jabs and stretches into a deep fighting stance as pairs of sparring dancers appear in a video by Carol McDowell, projected onto a scrim and the back wall. Live dancers mirror the movement, and the layering of action moves your eyes all over the stage. Kenny Endo’s divine Taiko drum score rumbles like thunder and helicopter blades, but also scrapes and whispers like leafless trees in winter.

“Dancers Jeremy Hale and Arianne Hoffman are a fine-tuned machine in a riveting sequence that incorporates a tire attached to pole – like a giant steamrolling protractor. On his back, Hale whirls the tire around as Hoffman bravely hops over and falls under the speeding pole before it whacks her leg or takes her head off. The near-miss tension is fantastic. (There should be a warning to youngsters not to attempt this trick at home). The blond pony tailed Hoffman is hilarious as she barks and screeches with much spittle a distorted version of the German anthem. She sounds like a Chinese Daffy Duck and never stops singing as her comrades rock her like a seesaw.

“Symbolic images of blind nationalism abound as dancers fold and fondle beach towels with stars and circles that look like ragged flags. When they rest their heads on triangle puffs you can’t help but see the bundle passed to young widows and parents of dead soldiers. The flag symbolism is blatant and moments of “Butohesque” slow motion can slog along, yet Yu’s polished dancers and scenic design by Peter Melville are visually stunning.

“In final sections, dancers Hale and Sebastian Peters-Lazaro twist with a strange pink towel covering their heads and stretch into glorious sculptured balances. They conjure heart-wrenching images of hand-to-hand-combat, caskets, and young men clinging to life.

“Rincon’s premiere of “Borderline” is an adventure energized by cartoons, video games and a wacky score by Don Nichols, who’s literally a doctor of experimental music and weird sounds at UCSD. To the whoosh of an air balloon, dancer Deven Brawley pops out of a billowing parachute with a spiky shock of day-glow red hair and aviator goggles – he’s a hybrid comic book hero or lost sci-fi mutant in a strange land. He flails and prances to sound clips from Bugs Bunny, Star Wars, the Beatles and Abbott and Costello. Brawley creates a fun commanding character, and let’s hope we see him really shine with more actual dancing in the sequel, Borderline II. Fantasy slams into reality when Brawley exits through the stage door, a brilliant ending.

“LA-based Rodney Mason is an actor/dancer who’s played Rome in “Rome and Jewels,” the hip-hop version of Romeo and Juliet. But he’s best known as the droll British socialite “Tony Sinclair,” a fictional spokesman for Tanqueray Gin. He didn’t make it to Thursday’s opening show as he was filming yet another commercial. (BkSOUL, Collective Purpose and the past)(modern performance duo with Don Nichols saved the day with an excerpt from their upcoming show “The Movement,” set for next weekend at UCSD).

“On Friday, Mason arrived with “Origins: My Mother’s Son,” an autobiographical collage of spoken word, hip hop dancing, video clips and a few lines from his gin guy character. With a wide-grin, the stocky Mason tells how he got the nickname Duck Butt Baby the III, how he hid imaginary friends from his mother and cared for his dying grandfather. In a poignant soliloquy, he becomes his grandfather and declares, “My sickness is from my sins.” This is a one-man show, and several times it feels like the end when Mason leaves the stage between sections. He may want to tighten these gaps before taking this work on tour. Still, he’s a loveable, gifted gabber and storyteller. His “I used to hate black” ditty is funny, as is the darkly comical video of a white corporate “suit” planning a modern African slave trade who remarks that Zulus are nothing but trouble. Mason’s memories of Marine boot camp and the Gulf War round out his performance and are an apt introduction for Yu’s surreal view of combat that follows in the second half of the program.”

The Details
Category: Arts
Dates: June 7-10, 2007
Production Type: Dance
Region: Downtown
URL: www.sushiart.org, www.rincondance.org, www.yudancetheatre.com

Kris Eitland
June 12, 2007

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