Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dance Sampler

Baltimore offers endless selections of drama and music. But dance events are rare.

Currently playing at Theatre Project, Shorts offers sixteen brief dance numbers by various regional dance companies and dancers. This varied anthology does not disappoint. A comic delight, Triplets features Sara Few, Martha Johnston, and Jennifer Seye in a vignette of quarreling triplets choreographed by Jennifer Seye. Choreographed by Cait Moler and performed by Marilyn Mullen and Adriana Saldana, These Walls have Windows is the evening's most sophisticated piece. The dancers elegantly negotiate textile bonds through geometric turns until they become engulfed in them. Accompanied by an ear-piercing rock duet, Adrienne Latanishen delivers some of the evening's most athletic and accomplished dancing in eclat. Several pieces explore the border between dance and non-dance. Prepare ascend fly ties dance to repetitive body movements and insect-like hums; #boildedrabbits adds a dose of improv theater to the proceedings.

Not everything in the anthology succeeds. Some bodies are less than lythe; some dancers exhibit little technique or discipline. A few of the routines come perilously close to what one expects on Dance Moms. It is unclear why no male dancers were present in the performance. But the flaws detract little from an exuberant sampler of dance trends in Charm City.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Barnyards and Bullies

Joshua Conkel's Milk Milk Lemonade features an absurdist slice of America.

Energetically performed by Single Carrot Theatre, the black comedy features a perplexed middle-school student Emory (played by Aldo Pantoja), tormented by his Wagnerian grandmother Nanna (Elliott Rauh) and by the brutal kid-down-the-block Elliott (Giti Jabailly). To find solace on his lonely chicken farm, Emory befriends the uber-chicken Linda (Jessica Garrett), whom he attempts to save from the farm's lethal processing machine. A lyotard-clad narrator (Genevieve de Mahy) gaily directs the play's action, provides a voice for the clucking Linda, and wears the evening's best costume as a spider who attacks the hapless Linda under the porch.

The dreams of the play's characters are pop Americana. Emory would like to win stardom on a knockoff of American Idol with his disco ribbon dance; Elliott wants nothing more than the perfect prom date. Amid hilarious dance routines and eccentric jokes, the play deals with the serious issue of social roles and stereotypes. Nanna hectors the effeminate Emory and drags his doll aways from him; Elliott bullies Emory to the point of violence. In Nanna's world, everyone has a distinct role: men are brawny and aggressive, chickens are meant to end up fried on the plate. For the ever-sensitive Emory, even chickens (and moths) have souls and the equally sensitive Linda must be saved from the death machine's blades. Although the admonitions against bullying push the play beyond a pop cartoon, the audience may want to come up for air when the preaching becomes overheated.

At the center of the action is Aldo Pantoja's exuberant performance as Emory. His lythe dances and sentimental protests capture adolescent angst in a boy who is simply different from the others and who sympathizes with similarly misshapen others. The rest of the cast is similarly energetic; director Nathan Cooper continues Single Carrot's brand of athletic, mobile performance. But these performances have a one-note montony. Nanna is all bark with little humanity in her devotion to her farm and grandson; Linda is vaguely pleasant rather than endearing. One of the heroes of the evening is Melanie Lester and her team of designers from the Maryland Institute College of Art; their colorful and witty costumes light up Conkel's pop fantasy of fame and fulfillment.