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Rachel Levin
Performance Reviews
Special Focus
Highways Performance Space
United States
Greater Los Angeles
Santa Monica, CA

4 Headed Dance III

by Rachel Levin
April 3, 2010
Highways Performance Space
1651 18th St., Santa Monica, CA
Santa Monica, CA 90404
The cover of the program for the third annual installment of 4 Headed Dance – a showcase of four contemporary choreographers "headed up" by Keith Glassman – featured performer Ilaan Egeland Mazzini in a "bikini top" of whipped cream. This titillating image was, in a sense, a preview of the four works to come. Though all very distinct, each work in this quartet contained elements of surprise, playfulness, and frothiness in the whipped cream spirit.

In Mazzini's case, her performance of "In Record Time" did feature an actual can of the dairy dessert topping, but that's not to say there was anything fluffy about it. An exploration of women's roles both seductive and domestic, Mazzini romped in a vintage bathing suit through several solo sections. The first had her busting out awkward burlesque/Broadway moves to vintage records, a sort of at-home-in-front-of-the-mirror yearning for glamour. In the next segment, Mazzini donned an apron to sweep up the broken bits of a smashed record, relegating her showgirl strivings to household mundanity. In the background, a slideshow of 1960's and '70s "porno-graph" record covers played, featuring snapshots of skin-baring beauties like Jayne Mansfield and voluptuous unknowns like the cream-coated cover girl on Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass' "Whipped Cream and Other Delights."

For the final segment, Mazzini traded her apron for go-go boots and shimmied into the crowd with her very own whipped cream can, admonishing audience members to "shake it." In the end, she denied our expectations that she'd cover herself in whipped cream clouds, which is of course what we'd hoped to see. In this way, "In Record Time" was an effective commentary on the fetishization of the feminine form and the complicated ways in which women's bodies – both static and in motion – command the gaze, suggesting that there is power to be had in a woman taking control of her own sexualized depiction.

Arianne MacBean's "Leaving (and other rabbit tricks)" also violated expectations by creating a duet front-loaded with textual scenes and depriving us of the dancing we expected until the very end. Performers Brad Culver and Genevieve Carson gave standout performances as a couple ensconced in the universal conflict of miscommunication between the genders. Their comical exchanges – an extended quibble about magic tricks, of all things – cultivated a believable layer of tension between the two thick enough to cut with a proverbial knife.

Most humorous were interludes in which the two attempted to complete a simple hug yet fell short because of their preoccupation with the mechanics of the movement. When the two finally fell into a tender dance duet at the end, draping themselves over one another in exasperation and affection, the physical contact was a powerful catharsis that drained off the palpable frustration. Dance, in this case, was the magic rabbit that MacBean pulled out of her bag of tricks.

Less accessible than the first two pieces was Carmela's Hermann's "Tuesday," a self-professed series of movement scores developed from writings documenting the first two hours of the choreographer's day throughout a one-week period. Dressed in a childlike pinafore bubble dress, Hermann soloed to clownlike music with movements that resembled a music box ballerina. The repetition of shuffling back and forth across the space, spinning, and head shaking went on perhaps too long to hold our attention. Then, inexplicably, Hermann turned her attention to a dizzying array of toy cars, which she sent careening across the stage with glee. If these girlish pursuits speak to the choreographer's daily routine, perhaps she is reflecting on the need of the artist to channel her inner child in the creative process.

The element of surprise and delight in Keith Glassman's "Repeat After Me" was the inclusion of intergenerational performers. Three young adults were paired with three dancers who looked like their respective grandparents. The older performers, though they appeared to be non-dancers (a signature of Glassman's pieces), were especially engaging to watch because of the untrained honesty of their expression, and as the younger dancers mirrored them, the piece explored the natural imprinting of movement from elder to child, as a bird to her chick.

For the artists, 4 Headed Dance provided a rare opportunity for choreographers who often work in isolation from one another to give feedback to each other throughout the creative process. For the audience, it offered the treat of seeing a variety of challenging contemporary work on one bill. Taken together, this was fare that was sweet enough to be dessert but – contrary to its whipped cream billing – substantial enough to keep viewers thinking about the ways in which dance comments upon gender roles, relationships, the creative process, and family ties long after the lights came up.
Ilaan Egeland Mazzini in 'In Record Time'

Ilaan Egeland Mazzini in "In Record Time"

Photo © & courtesy of Rollence Patugan

Brad Culver and Genevieve Carson in Arianne MacBean's 'Leaving (and other rabbit tricks)'

Brad Culver and Genevieve Carson in Arianne MacBean's "Leaving (and other rabbit tricks)"

Photo © & courtesy of Rollence Patugan

Carmela's Hermann in 'Tuesday'

Carmela's Hermann in "Tuesday"

Photo © & courtesy of Rollence Patugan

Keith Glassman's 'Repeat After Me'

Keith Glassman's "Repeat After Me"

Photo © & courtesy of Rollence Patugan

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