DANCE DIARY- Dancers Delight

A program titled Humor Unplucked!, offered by Free Range Arts, would seem to have been exactly what was needed to offset the summer doldrums.

We have been taught that comedy can be closely akin to tragedy, and so it was with the opening work, "Office Omens and Arias," created by Dale Fournier and Maria van Valkenburg, and performed by van Valkenburg, Robert Bingham, and Josh Blaker. Ms. van Valkenburg played the role of the mousy secretary, harried by an over-demanding boss and urged on by inner voices to escape. When she finally heeds the voices and makes herself into the glamorous, operatic Carmen, she displays abundant talents.

Basically an opera singer, Ms. van Valkenburg also plays a mean pair of castanets as she accompanies herself in a wild dance to music from the opera. However, when she attempts to leave the office behind, two demons block her path by placing a wall in front of her. The troubled girl will never escape. In addition to the multi-talented van Valkenburg, Bingham and Blaker, in the minute roles of the snarling demons concluded the tale of office slave with a devastating relish.

Are you bugged by the exaggerations and self-importance displayed by TV weathermen or weatherwomen? You will love "Slipping Into Weather," created and performed by Claire Porter. She not only talks a good one, but also molds her body into hilariously outlandish movement patterns while illustrating her deliberately confusing chatter.

"Integrity Brings With It An Empty Plate," a series of movement essays, written and performed by Michael A. Carson, was supposedly of autobiographical content. Of the six essays, most of them rather self-indulgent, "The Critic" was the most effective. In fact, it was quite scathing, thanks to voice-overs in which Carson's voice attempted to explain to a woman what the "expressionist dance" being performed by him was interpreting. The woman's voice vehemently disagrees with everything he says. She finally ends up by asking him, "What are you--the Unabomber or something?"

Side-splitting hilarity came across in "Score," written, directed, and performed by Mary Barnett, with assistance by Michelle Duncan and Melissa Sylvester. Ms. Barnett is the gal who tackles what might be considered ordinary movements like getting out of bed, attempting to face the day, applying makeup, vacuuming, telephoning, etc . She manages all moves with devastating comic impact. Apart from the fact that she is one of the most natural comediennes we've seen in many a day, she is aided by Duncan and Sylvester as two women sportscasters sitting on the sidelines and describing every one of Barnett's movements as if they were covering a monumental sports event. The duo delivered lines with a flair that seemed to inspire Ms. Barnett toward the heightened lunacy that had everyone practically falling out of their seats.

Studies in masochism and eroticism made up "Bang and Suck." Choreographed by David Parker and performed by Parker and Jeffrey A. Kazin, it was accompanied by hypnotic rhythms. The dancers themselves pounded the floor with hands and feet as they alternated between endearment and battery toward each other, thereby making this the most unusual creation on the program. The idea of two men concluding with their own erotic conception of the grand pas de deux from The Nutcracker may sound ludicrous. But the two turned out to be such masters of dance craft, they carried everything off with appealing lyricism as well as brilliance to spare.

A fitting farce, "Undone," choreographed by Lori Katterhenry, concluded the program. This work sees six women bearing eggs as if they are precious stones, stooping, rising, and jerking about in the craziest positions. With their looney getups, the dancers could appear to be emulating animal rituals--perhaps those of simians. The women's movements are so choppy that one might even see them as puppets, manipulated by strings. At the end, they all break their precious eggs and go offstage with the most comic conceptions of desolation. The individual antics of Kimberly Fischer, Maureen Glennon, Colleen McArdle, Joelle Van Sickle, Kim Villanueva, and Kim Whittam made for a highly satisfying conclusion to a constantly fascinating program.

Humor Unplucked! was presented at the Vineyard's Dimson Theatre, 108 E. 15th St., NYC, July 11-21.

Feld Gets Cookin' in Germany

Eliot Feld's "Medium: Rare" was recently performed at Stuttgart's Kaleidoskop Festival. Directed by Birgit Keil in association with the Stuttgart Ballet, the 1985 solo is set to Steve Reich's "Vermont Counter-point." Originally danced by James Sewell, it was performed in Stuttgart by Krzysztof Nowogrodzki.

Feld, who traveled to Stuttgart for final rehearsals and the premiere, has returned to New York to begin work on the Feld Ballets/NY Aug. 5-17 Joyce Theater season, which will feature premieres and company favorites. Aug. 19-24, the company appears at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

A Taylor Tribute at the Pillow

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and School have mounted a summer celebration of the genius of choreographer Paul Taylor. Comprising the event are a two-week Taylor Workshop, oudoor presentations by Taylor 2 and Workshop students, and an engagement by the Paul Taylor Dance Company in the Ted Shawn Theatre (July 23-27).

Complementing the performances of Paul Taylor Dance Company and the resident activities of Taylor 2 are a photographic exhibit and a free lecture. The former, displaying Taylor's career, is housed in Blake's Barn/Visitors Center throughout the summer. The lecture, "Two Bachs: Choreography by Paul Taylor and George Balanchine to the Double Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043," is by Alan M. Kriegsman, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic emeritus of The Washington Post. It will be held on July 25, at 7 pm, in Blake's Barn/Visitors Center.

More Pillow Talk

Everett Dance Theatre brings "Body of Work," an evening-length multimedia examination of American labor and industry, to the Pillow's Studio Theatre, July 25-28. Past Everett works include "Flight," based on early flight attempts by the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart, and "Pandora Restaurant," which intertwined newspaper headlines with personal stories. Tickets/information: (413) 243-0745.