Dallas — “A fish—that is a stupid animal. But you put it in a pot, and … so delicious!” says James Gregg as he describes at length how to prepare fish. Holding a mike, he talks as though salivating about sex. Melissa Bourkas, just inches away, looks at him with scorn.
This is just one tiny part of Barak Marshall’s wacky And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square… performed by L.A.-based Bodytraffic Friday at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House, presented by TITAS. The first show on the program, it made a nice contrast to the solemn Dust and the exuberant o2Joy.
And at midnight … is based on a real story about eight daughters and one son who lived in Aden, Yemen, and who are forever screaming, cursing and bickering. As the company does not have eight women, the group is split into four women and five men, and yes they do bicker, their voices heard over Jewish and Yiddish songs and hymns.
The ballet opens with Tina Finkelman Berkett standing still in a pool of light holding a bouquet of wedding flowers. The calm does not last. The music turns bouncy, her siblings storm in wearing everyday dress of brown, tan, rust and lavender. Their movement is deliberate and for the most part, performed in perfect unison. With legs bent and widely apart, their fingers, hands and arms are so animated that the dancers look as though they are writing letters in the air.
In one of the funnier scenes, men bring out benches, lift a woman and deposit her upside down beneath the bench, her stiff legs shooting upward. The action is repeated, until all four women lie upside down like racks of meat in a slaughterhouse.
The mike comes out two more times, each time with a man standing next to a woman and describing how to prepare a pigeon and later a lamb. Guzman Rosado’s manner in describing how to prepare a pigeon—the onion, tying the legs together, etc., sounds even more like a description of how he would make love. Christine Bodie gives him a good slap. For his part in describing how to prepare a lamb—add cinnamon and apricots, etc.—Joseph Kundre takes a clinical approach, adding, “the lamb is wonderful.”
“The lamb doesn’t think so,” retorts Lindsey Matheis.
In an entirely different tone, Hofesh Shechter’s Dust is bleak and brooding. The stage itself is dark. Sounds of a dust storm intermingle with random noise. Three women in dark red dress and three men in dark pants and coats, their shirts flapping loose, lumber with heads down and shoulders bent. They move as two separate units, using counterweight to propel their bodies. A voice intones over and over “something to live for, something to die for” before the words turn into gibberish. The dancers pause, look upward and growing more agitated, begin to jerk and convulse. The end is just as foreboding: the image of a people stunned and defeated.
Richard Siegal’s delightful o2Joy, set to a wide array of jazz that include Oscar Peterson’s “Mumbles” and “My One and Only,” Billie Holiday’s “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and Glen Miller’s “Taps Miller,” zips along to capture the individuality of the dancers. They can be rubbery and loose-limbed as in “Mumbles,” brisk and bouncy as in “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” or downright outrageous as in Ella Fitzgerald’s “All of Me.” All eyes are on Matthew Rich as he primps and undulates while mouthing “All of Me,” vamping shamelessly. Berkett and Bourkas try in vain to upstage him. Melissa Bourkas gets her chance to dazzle at the end of the romantic “My One and Only” where she sways in her partner’s arms, pulls away, and moves as though whatever hinges hold her limbs together are about to come undone.
» To see more photos, click the slideshow icon in the floating menu at the bottom left of your screen. Photos copyright Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.