Provocation & Divulgence

Dancers strike a sex zombie pose in “Breathing Corpses.” Photo credit: Mickey Mounarath.


You’ve got to hand it to Mickey Mounarath and Spencer John Powell of Visionary Dance Theatre, who lately are the most visible dance producers in town. Their focus is to produce up-and-coming artists in all art forms.  There is great value in providing such a platform, especially when novices have the chance to shadow more experienced artists.

But curating a dance concert isn’t an exact science, it’s an art.  There’s inherent risk in mixing extreme styles and abilities. In a recent experiment, one got the feeling that even the pros needed to go back to the laboratory.

In Provocation & Diligence, Visionary Dance Theatre offered a sampling of six choreographers, some well-known, including Khamla Somphanh, Jess Humphrey, and Michael Mizerany, at the 10th Avenue Theater last weekend.

Mizerany, a master of partnering, presented a polished ensemble piece with the lovely title, Breathing Corpses.

No surprise, the work featured erotic tumbling, disturbing images of men and women in bondage, wicked kisses and one man’s buttocks.  Stephanie Smith was a stunning monster who helped the group torture another woman; they pinned her down then lifted and twisted her like a giant dish towel.

This was to be a new work, but instead had the same carnal thrill as his works in Malashock RAW, and a bit more “yuk” factor.  Mizerany, a Horton-award-winning choreographer, has been stuck on combative couplings, orgies, and lots of sex themes without love since early 2000. It is time to go back to the laboratory and discover a fresh, even joyful attitude.

Humphrey’s All I Feel Is Change, set to Puccini, put co-director Mounarath on stage with Marty Dorado in a playful string of leans and syncopated yet easy rebounds. A sequence where the men beckoned members of the audience was awkward but the dancing was engaging.  The men took turns leaning on a giggling stranger while the other circled in fluid patterns.

Vices, set to music by Four Tet, opened with a beautiful solo by Somphanh. Her internal focus and Asian inspired vocabulary is mesmerizing.  Three women joined her in fluid stretches like those of a cat stalking prey.  A whisper changed them into killer assassins who cut the air with knife sharp arms.  The constant sense of animals in fight or flight mode was just one of many things to like in the work.

Caryn Glass’s was an attractive duet between Glass and Ami Ipapo that injected a fine taste of absurd theater. Short, sharp and sort of French, the women dressed in scruffy black tutus slid over the floor on tiny mattresses, and one tried to smother the other. The dark humor was a welcomed change of pace.

With plastic bags over their heads and plastic wrap tight around their torsos, the dancers in By Mistake or Design breathed heavily before tearing open a breathing hole. Choreography and costumes by Zaquia Mahler Salinas suggested they were space creatures who fell to earth unprepared.

Veronica Jaszkowiak was most disturbing while fondling a CPR mannequin, but also revealed strong technique and presence that was exceptional. A dense sound score of multiple texts became hard to follow. Was that Pope Leo XIII?  A scream led to a creepy notion of being violated. Kudos to Salinas for taking chances here, but the structure and delivery did not hold up well.

A remake of Carmina Burana, set to Carl Orff’s breathtaking score, filled the second half. The joint effort between LaDiego Dance Theater and Visionary Dance Theatre was overly ambitious in more ways than I can count.

Many dancers were emerging students, barely hatched.  But I was struck by their unwavering energy and obvious joy in performing. Like all dancers, they need to keep working on technique and physique.

And I congratulate Visionary Dance Theatre for its remarkable support of both emerging and veteran dance artists in the creative process.


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