June 1, 2015
The regal origins of ballet have been hard to shake; after 400 years, one can still sense the elite presence of the French Sun King, Louis IV, no matter how subtle. With hip-hop, the energy of the street drives the predominantly male competition for virtuosity. John Scott - Irish Modern Dance Theatre’s “Hyperactive,” which appeared at La Mama as part of LaMama Moves, is as irreverent and unpredictable as any blarney-loving working man. In so doing, Scott introduces a fresh approach to dance with a distinctly Irish wit.
One Irishman - Ryan O’Neil, two Americans - Stuart Singer and Marcus Bellamy, and one Frenchman - Kevin Coquelard cross paths in “Hyperactive.” Coguelard starts us off in the direction of children’s theatre with his giggle-inducing mime; Bellamy follows his train of thought with an imitation of a dog. But then a train wreck soon follows with the four men falling on each other in a sleepy huddle with a magnetic center that keeps drawing the four back together each time they pull away. A poetic stream of games flow on through the hour; we never tire of one gambit before another begins.
Neither macho, nor effeminate, the four men move free of psychological associations, but they sometimes poke fun at our expectations. For example, one man carried by two others makes Coquelard run around them like a dog following a car, barking “Let me help! Let me help!” which prompts the man aloft to press one finger down on Coquelard’s solicitous hand. Rather than smooth out foiled attempts at unison, Scott makes mishaps be the raison d’etre. At one point, Coquelard, the chosen comic, has trouble jumping from his back on the floor to his feet, as the others did. So he tries it for four-five more times, while the others wait, until he runs unabashedly like a 6 year old screaming “I did it and you can do it too,” getting the other three to join in the chant.
Sometimes, the production feels like a series of exercises - such as the four men going up and down in their own rhythm, each one announcing their count, or one man running backwards, trusting that someone will catch him before he hits the wall. But, after all, Scott has created a modern ritual of male bonding, with no implications of its purpose beyond the joy of the moment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers