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Robert Abrams
Performance Reviews
Special Focus
Triskelion Arts - Muriel Schulman Theater
United States
New York City
New York
Brooklyn, NY

"dialogue" - Mari Meade Dance Collective at Triskelion Arts - A collage of a dance-filled day in NYC that dancers would want to live in

by Robert Abrams
June 14, 2018
Triskelion Arts - Muriel Schulman Theater
106 Calyer Street

(Formerly at 118 North 11th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211)
Brooklyn, NY 10016

"dialogue" - presented June 14-16, 2018 at 8 pm.
Dance a Monday. Get up. No. Get up. Snooze. Get up. Snooze. Get up. Okay. Get ready. Maybe some push-ups. See the contemporary city. The subway, of course, but better because everyone dances. Good continuous control, everyone. They're pregnant. Yeah, so, I am sitting here already. Morning sickness, but also really happy some of the time. Maybe it is the Kathak? Business(wo)men in suits. Beautiful no-contact partnering. Read the stories in the costumes, watch the abstract dance. A solo in white, with big extensions. Businessmen(three), more Kathak. Working hard, very energetic. Their dry cleaner will be very happy. Keep going on Okay Street for a while. Two alone together. A dialogue of four. Soaring music. Life in the imperfect city, trying to soar. Swing bar. Really dancing. Finally. Give us more. Please. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. A throuple. I don't know. You could ask them, I guess. Strident music. Driving music, but dancing at half speed all the way through each beat. Bright lights. Going to work, but fully awake this time. Breathe. Review the day in reverse. Alternate perspectives on the day. Back in bed where it all started. Alarm clock. Black out.

The Mari Meade Dance Collective presented "dialogue" at Triskelion Arts' black box theater in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The choreography was by Mari Meade. This evening length, contemporary dance had balletic moments, and was punctuated by dance styles not normally seen in contemporary dance, such as Kathak (a contemporary-Indian version of Kathak) and Swing (Lindy-ish). The evening was structured as a collage of scenes showing life in NYC over one Monday. Some scenes, using narration or other devices, were explicitly narrative, while other scenes were mostly abstract. The movements, in many instances, were based on pedestrian, everyday movements that had been stylized. The overall effect was a mood-story that for the most part was clearly readable, while remaining a work of abstract dance. In this sense, it was about halfway between a pure abstract dance and a pure story dance.

The show contained both drama and humor, both of which were compelling.

The ensemble of dancers were all strong, carrying the choreography well. They had both technique and character. The dancers were Allison Beler, Dia Dearstyne, Mat Elder, Breanna Gribble, Misuzu Hara, Sean Hatch, Morgan Hurst, Isaac Owens, Or Reitman, Rachel Rizzuto and Roza Savelyeva.

The varied street clothes costumes, by Marc Witmer, gave the show an appealing look. There was no set, other than chairs, so the lighting by Andy Dickerson and David Glista was key to setting each scene.

The energy and groupings varied from number to number, which carried my interest across the numbers and the evening. I often liked the transitions between numbers. Some numbers employed punctuated changes in tempo.

One choreographic formation towards the end of the show that caught my eye was a Vee of dancers. Another just after was when energetic subgroups of dancers rotated to points of the compass within the full group. I thought it exemplified the way that the city is composed of many smaller communities, which still manage to function as a whole.

The segment of the show at the end, like a film wound backwards from end to start, was an epilogue that reminded the audience in a few pauses of what they had just seen, but revealing a little more of the story from an alternate perspective. This was a fairly unique, effective and perhaps reverse-Brechtian device.

How could the show be improved? While the show is already very good in both concept and execution, there are two parts of the show I might take a look at.

First, I would look at the sections with the pregnant women. It seemed like the pregnant women, portrayed as perhaps at least seven months pregnant, were more energetic than actual pregnant women might be. Since I have never been pregnant, I can't say for sure, but it might be worthwhile to take another look at how pregnant women move. Or ask women who have given birth to review "dialogue" the next time MMDC presents the show. MMDC could also create a behind the scenes video showing the dancers rehearsing and thinking about how pregnant women move, and talking about doctors' advice about movement during pregnancy, whether dancing during pregnancy is correlated with children who like dance, and so on. Such a video could be an artwork in and of itself, and could be used to promote the next staging of the show.

Second, and this is something for which I do have direct experience, the dancers in the Swing bar scene should not have been holding cups of alcohol while dancing. Real social dancers would put their glasses down before dancing. Serious social dancers do drink, but they don't typically drink while on the dance floor. More casual dancers often can be seen dancing while holding a drink. It is possible that the holding of the cups while dancing was necessary to have the scene read as more-than-somewhat-buzzed revelry. I would try the scene with and without the cups, get feedback from a variety of people, and then decide whether to leave the cups in the scene or put them down. Or do the same but make a video on the relationship between dancing and drinking. (Either way, keep the dancing Santas that barged through the Swing bar.)

Ms. Meade also teaches social dance for Pierre Dulaine's Dancing Classrooms program. A few other MMDC dancers either also teach for Dancing Classrooms or are going to start soon. This exploration of partner dance by contemporary dancers puts MMDC in a good position to help bridge one of the biggest gaps in dance, namely that between fans of concert dance and practitioners of social dance.

MMDC sold out a three night run at Triskelion Arts, although there were a handful of empty seats when I saw the show, so you might still be able to get a ticket if you are lucky. "dialogue" deserves to be seen by a larger audience. One challenge is that there is a big difference between selling out a small house and selling out a larger house – I think "dialogue" could work at NYLA – or a longer run. To prepare for selling a larger run, I would suggest that MMDC create a dance film of the show, either a video of the stage production, or a dance for the camera, or both. They could promote the video for a while, expand their network, and then begin preparations for a second staging of "dialogue".

MMDC's "dialogue" created a dance-filled version of NYC that I would want to live in, on more than just one Monday.
Mat Elder and Morgan Hurst in MMDC's dialogue, Throuple section

Mat Elder and Morgan Hurst in MMDC's dialogue, Throuple section

Photo © & courtesy of Benjamin Hoste

Or Reitman and Sean Hatch in MMDC's dialogue, Boardroom Beef section

Or Reitman and Sean Hatch in MMDC's dialogue, Boardroom Beef section

Photo © & courtesy of Jack Hartin

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