Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dance review: 'Monger' danced amazingly, but needs more weight

A scene from Monger, by Barak Marshall.
(Photo by Gadi Dagon)

By Tara‭ ‬Mitton Catao

What resonates in your mind‭’‬s eye after watching‭ ‬Monger,‭ ‬the evening-length work by choreographer Barak Marshall,‭ ‬is the astonishingly original movement.‭

With the fusion of highly arresting visual images,‭ ‬an extremely‭ ‬diverse music score and such powerfully athletic and gestural movement,‭ ‬Marshall has created an absolutely original portrayal of oppression.‭

Monger reveals the busy‭ “‬downstairs‭”‬ life of a group of servants that is dictated by the invasive presence of the mistress of the house‭ “‬upstairs‭”‬ who,‭ ‬though never really present,‭ ‬makes her perpetual demands to the servants on an old-time radio mic,‭ ‬conjuring up images of‭ ‬World War II radio shows.‭

Layered over the entire work is a veil of ever-changing ethnicity that seeps from one section to the next,‭ ‬driven by the score,‭ ‬an intriguing patchwork of music styles ranging from rock to classical to Romanian gypsy music.‭ ‬This‭ “‬it could be anywhere‭”‬ aura is also aided by the varied costumes,‭ ‬which seem to evoke pre-war America‭’‬s WPA,‭ ‬black-garbed Victorian nannies and contemporary women for sale.‭

The stark stage lighting divides and isolates the space as various cleverly choreographed vignettes touched on the real lives and feelings of the servants‭; ‬the underlings.‭ ‬At times,‭ ‬it‭’‬s humorous and quirky.‭ ‬At‭ ‬other times,‭ ‬sad and poignant.‭

But all the time,‭ ‬the movement races as the dancers perform this wonderful choreography with its distinctive rhythmic gestures.

Monger tells a story.‭ ‬One of the beauties of dance as an art form is that one can make one‭’‬s own personal interpretation from the loosely formed,‭ ‬symbolic story line in the dance.‭ ‬This is a story about power and its effects.‭ ‬Barack Marshall has created a layered and intelligent work that weaves his multicultural heritage with his multi-generational artistic inheritance and captures our imagination with his images.

Unfortunately,‭ ‬because of unforeseen circumstances,‭ ‬the originally scheduled dance company from Israel was unable to‭ ‬perform Friday night at the Duncan Theatre.‭ ‬A young Los Angeles-based‭ ‬company called Bodytraffic,‭ ‬for whom Marshall is a choreographer,‭ ‬quickly learned‭ ‬Monger‭ ‬so that the work could still be performed as‭ ‬part of the Duncan season.‭

The dancers should be highly commended for their performances considering they learned‭ ‬the entire work in three weeks.‭ ‬An amazing feat,‭ ‬especially as the unusual choreography is very demanding,‭ ‬requiring a great deal of stamina and movement articulation,‭ ‬and that‭ ‬the dancers‭ ‬use their voices in a variety of ways.‭

However,‭ ‬considering the theatrical variety of‭ ‬Monger,‭ ‬this was not a rich interpretation of the work.‭ ‬The performance was danced‭ ‬well enough but it was just‭ ‬not theatrically weighted enough.‭

It is a‭ ‬work that is truly dance theater,‭ ‬and whether it was‭ ‬the lack of rehearsal time or perhaps the lack of experience in the tradition of dance theater in the United States,‭ ‬this performance just did not take off as it should have,‭ ‬considering the quality of the choreography.‭ ‬It should have just been electric.

Barak Marshall's Monger will be repeated tonight at the Duncan Theatre on the campus of Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth.‭ ‬Tickets for the‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬concert are‭ ‬$37.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬868-3309‭ ‬or‭ ‬

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