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Archive for January 28th, 2012

A review of The Beast

Following close on the heels of last summer’s The Very BEaST of SB Dance, this current installment remains true to the SB Dance brand identity: striking imagery, inventive use of props, irreverent talk, an all-star cast of dancers, and of course, bare buttocks.
I was pleasantly surprised that the evening featured mainly new material, as I was expecting numerous repeats from the past concert. I enthusiastically re-watched the show opener, Table, featuring Jenny Larsen and Nathan Shaw gliding across the stage on an industrial table with wheels. I was equally enthusiastic that Brown raised the stakes with physical daring and risk, most noteworthy being Shaw’s epic table body surfing and dive roll. Less successful was the reworking of Ninja, featuring Larsen on bungee straps. While I had enjoyed the previous version, this new adaptation seemed like a techno-infused caricature of the original.
And of course I can’t fail to mention the revision of Cowboy, featuring not one, not two, but an entire cast of nude-but-for-newspaper dancers. Maybe it’s just me, but the nudity (or the tease of it) doesn’t do much for me. Apparently the audience members to my right didn’t share my opinion as evidenced by their catcalls of appreciation. They also couldn’t seem to get enough of Brenda Sue’s monologue Job, which can be described succinctly by its catch phrase “Fuck you.” I got enough of this quickly and while not offended, became just plain bored. This made me wonder who SB Dance’s intended audience is and the answer is probably not me. I neither blush nor get worked up over bare bodies and curse words, but I realize that for some this could be a thrilling experience in the formal setting of the theater.
The evening also included several new works, my favorite being Body, featuring the limp (yet very toned) body of Juan Carlos Claudio being manipulated in wonderfully physical ways by several cast members. Another new vignette, Pole, consisted of polished and precise work between a quartet of dancers and the long metal pole that connected them. Although I enjoyed both of these new additions, they made me ask “What’s the point?” For those pieces that are excerpts of larger works, I wish I could put these striking tableaus into context and add another layer of meaning and enjoyment to my experience. For those created new this season, I question how they contribute to the show as a whole, other than eeking the run time to just shy of an hour. In the end, the excerpts and new mini-pieces struck me as a bit disjointed.
The final suite of the evening featured a preview of a new evening length work, In Trust and Treason, to premiere in June 2012. This smoky dance fueled with sexual tension seems like a promising return to the realm of sustained idea development. I am eager to see more from the trio of Liberty Valentine, Stevan Novakovich, and Juan Carlos Claudio and find it satisfying to watch these mature dancers with a history of performing together shine in their character roles. In fact, Brown acknowledges his stellar cast of dancers in the program notes stating, “The story behind this performance is a phenomenal cast. They’re so good that all I have to do is stay out of their way.” I agree.

Elizabeth Stich holds her
MFA from the U and teaches almost everywhere in the valley (seriously). /em>