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Robert Abrams
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Cluster Lo Magico at Pacha New York Nightclub

by Robert Abrams
November 17, 2006
618 West 46th Street
(bet. 11th Avenue and the West Side Highway)
New York, NY 10036
When I was invited to Cluster Lo Magico, a performance and party at the Pacha nightclub, I knew it was supposed to be some sort of Latin American Magical Realism dance show and art exhibition at a club that is supposed to be New York City's answer to Ibiza.

This event, produced by Dance Anonymous and Anne-Marie Duchene, was made possible by a large company of associated artists. Ms. Duchene described them as risk takers. That they certainly were. They presented everything from Modern dance to cirque-style aerial work to Salsa, all with a mostly Latin/Club-ish musical sensibility. The costumes by Yiorgos Ballapaisiotis, Gloria Guzman and Stephanie Landwehr were inventive. The separate dance performances were tied together by a loose family-generations story line narrated by a woman sitting in a rocking chair suspended from the ceiling. While the show was out there in a lot of ways, it was not risqué at all. It could have been, given the somewhat ambiguous postcard used to advertise the show, but it turned out to be quite family friendly in that there was no nudity and no simulated sex. I guess you have to actually to go Ibiza to get that.

Some of what I saw I really liked and some I thought was a good beginning.

The dancer in 'the dance of the mechanic' had great energy and held nothing back. Jhesus Aponte and Marielys Molina performed a very tight ballroom-style Salsa number that got the crowd going. I do know from personal experience that some Latin American people seem to be into the Chicken Dance, but I never expected to find a Latin American Chicken Dance that owes a debt to Martha Graham's Lamentation. The choreography managed to find something new to say with stretchy fabric that is pulled over the dancers' entire bodies. One dancer even slid through the costume of another dancer giving new meaning to the term 'partnering'. There was some pantomiming of chicken movements, but blessedly the choreographer did not limit herself to such movements. This was a full fledged modern dance work that would stand on its own (although the chicken movements might look a little odd if taken out of the context of the story line that made frequent reference to chickens the way that Violet Fire made reference to pigeons - Not that I am opposed to shows about chickens, mind you: I did write a play in high school called The Gizzard that took place inside of a chicken's reproductive tract, but all things in moderation). The blindfolded dancer who danced on and with a bedframe was quite impressive.

Most of the other numbers I thought were good, but they could have been great. In some cases, I thought the dancers' attack could have been stronger. The dancers were all clearly strong and talented, but they could have used a little more intensity. The show was more than fine as a floor show at a club, but it could use a little work to become a great stage show. I also feel that they should rethink the narrative a little. For instance, the narrative depends on a conflict between native people and Gypsies. It turns out that there are Gypsies (i.e. the Roma) in Latin America, but until I looked it up just now, I had assumed they mostly lived in Europe. Since part of the purpose of the show is to educate people about Latin American culture, I think it would serve the show to be clearer about who these two peoples are and how they came to be living in the same place. Also, I think the show was a little long, especially considering that most of the audience had to stand for the whole two hours. Some judicious pruning would make the show stronger. The show had an intermission. While I prefer shows to have intermissions, this intermission ended up feeling like dead space. They should either make the intermission shorter, or they should teach a dance lesson between acts. While I would encourage the artists to keep working on the full length show and present it again, I also think they should prepare a short form. They should pick three or four of the best numbers to offer it as a short floor show at various clubs. By exposing club dancers to performance dance, they would be doing the dance community a valuable service, as well as providing good entertainment.

One aspect that I really liked about the event as a whole was the way that the show transitioned from performance to social dancing. The music after the show was over was danceable in the formal social sense even if it was mostly not straight social dance music. The energy, atmosphere and lighting in the club were all great. Plenty of people did get out there and dance – some of them in a formal sense. One woman did approach me, mostly because she wanted to know why I was wearing a suit at a club, and for some reason, out of the blue, tried to lead me into an underarm turn, which gave me an excuse to pull her into frame and do my best to lead her around the floor, despite the fact that she was not wearing sensible shoes (she was wearing flip flops). I got her to dance a passable Tango-style fan. Other than that, though, it mostly felt like a space with "club" rules: people are going to look at you funny if you formally ask them to dance the way you would at a social dance party. I could be wrong. Maybe I just need a stronger attack. The event did suggest, though, that with some minor tweaking in the overall selection of music during the party, Dance Anonymous and Anne-Marie Duchene may have hit upon a formula for a show and party that could draw social dancers, "normal" clubgoers and modern dance fans to the same dance floor. Now that would be a story worth telling.
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