January 10, 2015
It was a lively presentation of dance at The Joyce Theater this week, thanks to the creative genius of choreographer Doug Elkins and his capable, genre-shifting dancers. Elkins has quickly made an impression in the performing arts world, even prior to formally assembling his company, doug elkins choreography, etc., in 2009. Perhaps most notable to date is his 2006 “Fräulein Maria” – a creative deconstruction of the beloved The Sound of Music.
The program opened with the New York premiere of his most recent brainchild, “Hapless Bizarre.” Immediately the vaudeville, comedic flare of the work consumes; the “hapless” Mark Gindick unsuccessfully races after a scurrying black bowler hat. Gindick, in fact, is a comedic actor welcomed by Elkins into the creative process and performance.
Soon he is joined by five other performers, donning psychedelic-patterned ensembles (Oana Botez). The odd guy out, he swirls between their caricatured interactions as they saunter across the space, pass the token hat, mirror mimed make-up application, and engage in atypical partner work. Most memorable is Deborah Lohse – her lankiness and impressive height is played up well, allowing for humorous, even awkward, moments.
Though the non-linear “Hapless Bizarre” succeeds in its lighthearted captivation, it’s the second and final work of the program that steals the show. “Mo(or)town/Redux” is a polished piece marrying Shakespeare’s “Othello” with the popular music of Motown. Inspiration is further credited to Jose Limon’s masterwork, “The Moor’s Pavane.”
Similar to Limon, Elkins too pins four dancers as the central characters, though in an entirely contemporary imagining with choreography that spans emotive, almost balletic, moments and movement phrases that evolve into spurts of impressive technique and break dance. Here Alexander Dones shines. His masterful solos showcase swift footwork and clean delivery – not to mention an impressive, aerial fan-kick turn which he seemed to suspend midair.
The focus on the universal themes of love and betrayal serve the abstracted narrative dance well. A white handkerchief is the sole prop – the prized token of love, stolen to mislead Othello’s trust. From the Jackson 5 to an acoustic version of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” the music further adds an element of fun of fun, familiarity, and alluded plot.
“I am interested in the collision of high art/low art, trash and treasure…taking pre-existing things and passing through them to find something entirely new,” Elkins notes. As this program reaffirmed, his open-minded, collaborative mentality is exactly what makes the work so intriguingly dynamic.
The performance was part of a return engagement run at The Joyce Theater featuring the LA-based company, BODYTRAFFIC, and doug elkins choreography, etc. on alternating nights.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson