West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 22 | Oct. 31 - Nov. 06, 2007


David Neumann / advanced beginner group
Dance Theater Workshop
219 W. 19th St.
Through Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Student Matinee Nov 2. at 12 p.m.
(212-924-0077; dtw.org)

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Kennis Hawkins, Will Rawls in the foreground, Chris Yon (jumping), and Andrew Dinwiddie in David Neumann’s athletic “feedforward”

Dance at the gym

David Neumann offers aerobic, existential family fun


Sports are a huge part of American culture, much more so than the oftentimes exclusionary contemporary dance world. Still, the two have much in common — movement, patterns, time-based performance, teamwork, and determinate objectives. Either can appear strange, even absurd to an outsider, especially when it become clear that the objective often revolves around a small round object, or, with experimental dance, something even less obvious.

While many choreographers have approached the athleticism these disparate physical activities share, David Neumann and his advance beginner group have created an ingenious fragmented amalgam, a mash up of dance and stadium games, complete with a commentary of found words and existential text by Karinne Keithley.

The job of announcer is performed by Neal Medlyn primarily, and Matt Citron, with inflection that is often ridiculously flat. Underneath it all, four trombonists line up in a row perform a score by Eve Beglarian that is equal parts Vaudeville and Hollywood.

The action takes place on a white stage marked with all kinds of red squares and rectangles, a combination of basketball, hockey, and soccer indicators somewhat misaligned. On the back wall, a series of colored rectangles is projected alongside an actual screen, and there is a progression of numbers. As the announcer says once at the opening and repeats later, “I don’t even know what game this is anymore.”

Taryn “the Greek” Griggs literally kicks off the action with a repeating phrase that exists comfortably at the intersection of modern dance and gymnastics. Soon Chris Yon, Lily Baldwin, and Matt join her in a quartet that draws gesture and movement patterns as well as grunts and groans from doubles tennis.

The choreography continues in this manner, threaded through the piece as distillations of things including figure and Olympic speed skating, in a lovely duet of long lines and side lunges between Will Rawls and Kennis Hawkins.

At various intervals, spotlights are turned on each performer or two at a time, and they are introduced, as at a game, by their real names and hometowns. Kyle Pleasant, from Seattle, makes an appearance before returning as the quintessential college mascot joke — a squirrel with an erection (but no nuts).

All the performances are sincere and engaging, but no one seems to be having as much fun inhabiting their character as Andrew Dinwiddie. His scruffy coach in black spandex shorts and gold fighter’s jacket is a Monty Python hoot. His hips are so loose, he actually has to hold onto his thing sometimes, as if to keep still. Every time the group forms a huddle, then seems to square off with sideways glances, he hides behind Yon. But it’s his recurring motif that’s burnt into memory — a slow gyration of the hips, arms held out to the side, then a sudden knock on the head with one hand, followed by a snap into arch-backed pose in profile, the back of one hand dramatically slapped against the forehead.

Of course, in the end, it’s baseball — the most boring sport to watch — that gets the biggest piece of the pie; not because it has the most interesting movement, but because it is the national pastime.

After a delightful, amusing duet of thrusts, hops, falls, and runs with Hawkins, Medlyn portrays a pitcher facing the audience and the cast, lined up along the front of the stage facing him. His doubts and aspirations are exposed in voice over, the consequences of different fates considered, the very act of considering considered in that moment when time seems to stand still for the performer right before the act. When everything — even the moon — is riding on one little ball.

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