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Menstruation, Manipulation, Mutilation; Herstory

Reviewed by Irene Backalenick

Presented by the estro tribe at Charas/El Bohio, 609 E. 9th St., Aug. 16-26.

Let's hear it for that old-time feminism! The estro tribe (a women's performance collective) has put together a spirited blend of dance, music, and memories. As they put it, the show is "a synthesis of dance, music, performance art, ritual, poetry, paint, propaganda, and girl power!!!"

"Herstory" comes across as a strong, in-your-face political statement favoring rights for all women, including lesbians! A litany of wrongs, such as rape, child abuse, job discrimination, and powerlessness, is covered. Never mind that we've heard it all before, back when the women's movement got under way in the '70s. The message undoubtedly must be spelled out for each new generation of young women.

This particular piece has grown out of the tribe's personal experiences, through a process of "consciousness-raising" (a term indeed familiar to '70s feminists), and the estro tribe makes the most of this intimate material. Individuals come forward to tell their stories. Raw truths lay exposed—unpolished and unprettified—often to an embarrassing degree. Well-staged by director Kimberlea A. Kressal, the show moves back and forth between production numbers and private testimonies. While not everyone is equally skilled, there are powerful individual performances. Gina Fantozzi has choreographed the piece so smoothly and imaginatively that it moves like the oceanic tides, one segment flowing into the next. And Liz Bourgeois' inspired costumes of reds, oranges, and purples give off a warm, comforting glow.

"Herstory" could easily have been a mere propaganda piece, descending into agitprop. Instead, its performers reach out into the audience with a message that rings true.

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