Homegrown dance, times two
Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective (which is also a dance company) aims to support and promote the diversity of Philadelphia's choreographers and their homegrown dance styles, and did precisely that on the weekend with a double dance feature at the Performance Garage: It opened with former David Dorfman Dance member Curt Haworth's Either/Or and went on to Vince Johnson's Drunken Monkey.
Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective (which is also a dance company) aims to support and promote the diversity of Philadelphia's choreographers and their homegrown dance styles, and did precisely that on the weekend with a double dance feature at the Performance Garage: It opened with former David Dorfman Dance member Curt Haworth's
and went on to Vince Johnson's
Haworth has been teaching at University of the Arts and making dance here for a decade; he recently founded Philly PARD (Performance Art Research and Development). For Either/Or, he collaborated with several well-known local dancers, among them Bethany Formica Bender, John Luna, and some of the Indigenous Pitch dancers, and framed the work with texts from Kierkegaard and Beckett. The dancers perform quite an acrobatic act between thoughts of these two mental giants, with handstands, cartwheels, and a series of Sisyphean rises and falls by Formica Bender.
But the outsized croquet mallets and wickets, the squishy balls that looked like blue hedgehogs, and a chess- game text suggested the absurdism of Lewis Carroll. Steve Antinoff was the dramaturg and Tim Motzer provided live atmospheric music on electric guitar, recording and remixing as he went.
Johnson's Drunken Monkey, about a troupe of warrior monks, was even more athletic. He works in an emerging movement style/sport called martial arts tricking and he, as Knuggle Buckets Brown, and Edwin Lopez, as Suave Electricity, provided plenty of jackknifing, back handsprings, and butterfly turns. But that was just the razzle-dazzle.
Christine Gerena (as Meow Hallelujah) is a firebrand to watch. All randy rump-pumping when her back is to the audience, and kittenish coyness when she turns to us, she's an adorable hoyden. Lopez's rubber band of a body puts out very small and slyly comedic moves. His parodic street-walk and homie hand signals are hilarious.
The Mmm Yeah Dragon Whisperers - Brandon Shockley, guitar, and Nezih Antakli, percussion - kept up a lively discourse with the dancers. But the piece went on too long with not enough content to carry it to the end, where it just fizzled out.
If Johnson is going to match or exceed some of the greats that set the stage and the bar for this kind of street dance - Rennie Harris, Olive Dance Theater - he's going to have to give his characters more than just cool names. He needs to flesh out concept and bring it to a conclusion that they and the audience will get. The show continues through next weekend.