Baryshnikov Dance Foundation Presents;
THE SHOW (Achilles Heels)
Monday, June 10, 2002
Lip-syncing and a walkover by a man in high-heeled
pumps come as no surprise. These features of “The Show, (Achilles
Heels)”, the new piece that White Oak Dance Company presented Saturday
night at the McCarter Theater, in Princeton, are to be expected of Richard
Move, the cross-dressing cabaret artist turned modern choreographer.Such
standard nightclub fare would raise nary a plucked eyebrow in New York’s
meat-packing district, where Move’s career began.
The surprise is seeing former ballet superstar
Mikhail Baryshnikov in heels and a gold bustier. Offered the choice between
two pairs of shoes, Baryshnikov’s character, a campy incarnation
of the Greek hero Achilles, chooses the sandals encrusted with glitter.
In his youth, Baryshnikov broke away from
ballet classicism to dance for Martha Graham and other modern masters.
Now 54, he directs and stars in White Oak, his own modern dance company.
In “The Show” is a brilliant work, and the most revolutionary
piece Baryshnikov has commissioned. With music by Arto Lindsay and Deborah
Harry of the rock group Blondie, and pop-cartoon sets by gallery artist
Nicole Eisenman, it is also the most ambitious, the most contemporary
and the most deeply satisfying.Baryshnikov has enjoyed mixed success commissioning
He sank to an absymal depth with Meg Stuart’s
“Remote” in 1997. But he scored a hit in ’98 wit Sarah
Rudner and Christopher Janney’s “Heartbeat; mb”, a stunning
biofeedback dance, also referenced in “The Show” when a thumping,
heart-shaped lantern appears.Along with iffy premieres, Baryshnikov has
orchestrated iffy revivals. Last year’s tribute to the 1960s Judson
era frankly bombed at the McCarter. This year, two pieces by Lucinda Childs
offer more substance. Their delicate Minimalism balances “The Show’s”
theatricality, while hinting at the theme Move will elaborate.
In the melancholy solo “Largo”,
Baryshnikov seems to yearn for he vanished prowess of his youth with softly
styled movements. Entering late, at the very end of the new, group work
“Chacony”, Baryshnikov dances alone again. The others abandon
him and he looks nervously from side to side, throws himself into a heavy
air-spin and dodges invisible punches. The piece suggest his uniqueness
Childs’ art has become more dramatic
since the ‘70s. Yet her journey is nothing compared with the distance
between “Chacony” and “The Show”. Far from a pure
dance piece, Move’s premiere incorporates extensive text (mostly
lip-synced), props, gags, songs and references to TV programs. Filled
with witty, historical anachronisms a la the late Derek Jarman, the piece
that compresses different realities into a stunning collage.
Essentially “The Show” conflates
the story of Achilles, the hero-warrior who chooses an early death, with
the real-life story of Baryshnikov, an aging superstar unwilling to retire.Both
appear wrapped in glamour and hopes of eternal fame. While Move does not
rely on dance to tell this story, and borrows freely from a number of
choreographers whom he admires, “The Show” strikes gold in
two dance solos for Baryshnikov.
Alternating between poses of haughty beauty
and moments when the dancer melts voluptuously in the intoxication of
his own stardom, these solos paint an unforgettable portrait of a great
artist.Evidently, it’s still too soon for Baryshnikov to stop dancing.
In the words or Blondie, he must “fade aw-a-ay, and radiate”.
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