Plano — It’s that time again: throughout neighborhoods, homes change their character with goblins, headstones, and spider webs strung over every possible object. So why shouldn’t artists take advantage of what used to be a children’s holiday? Halloween is ripe for interpretation, and for artists, count on it: it will be dark.
Such was the case with 8&1 Dance Company Friday night at Courtyard Theatre with “Deadly.” Even the printed program—red and black—with type set in Gothic, suggested bad things to come. But there were no ghosts and goblins, no spooky creaks and groans in Deadly, only ordinary people going about their business as usual, making the dance all the more unsettling.
The title refers to the seven deadly or cardinal sins, except that pride was replaced by vanity. Artistic director and choreographer Jill S. Rucca treated every sin with searing irony that sometimes bordered on the disquieting. Tame “Deadly” was not.
Perhaps Lust, which opened the program, stretched the theme a bit, since our first glimpse is of five women in sexy, skimpy dress, faces hidden by elaborate masks, vamping and preening and strutting as only leggy women in high heels can. Every outfit is different: one woman wears long black gloves, another garters and black nylons that reach half way up the thigh. In short, Victoria Secret on display. The lust came from invisible viewers.
But it was the dancers’ attitude of contempt and self-awareness that made Lust seethe.
In contrast, Gluttony started off tame so that the switch midway jerked us back to attention. In smart white shirt and black pants, Alexander Langley swings around the stage, stopping to place a covered bowl and then more wine glasses on a long dining table covered in a white tablecloth. Eventually, he sits, takes the lid off the bowl, pushes his face into a huge mound of spaghetti and gobbles it up. He chokes and four medics emerge doing a slo-mo crawl to reach him. The medics try hard to resuscitate him. No go, and off he is carted on a gurney. What made the whole rescue scene so fascinating was the medics’ Sylvester-cat stealthy gait— slow, deliberate and tentative. It’s as though they expect some unforeseen disaster.
Envy supplied an even bigger surprise. Like every other act, it consisted of two scenes. In the first, six dancers in black leotards with only Hannah Fozkos wearing a tutu dart in and out with balletic grace, sometimes at great speed. Some hidden force seems to spur them on, and the words of a song from Blue Hawaii (“what I want to be”) keep repeating. The mood changes in the next scene as Ms. Fozkos and Jessica Powell skirt the stage, eyeing each other and occasionally coming face to face. All the while, the plaintive voice of Lana Del Rey sings “Will you still love me when I am no longer young and beautiful?” From time to time the two erupt into extravagant back-bending leaps, looking like giant birds swooping through the air. They come close together again, almost nose to nose. Then a shot is heard. Ms. Fozkos slumps to the ground, and Ms. Powell coolly places her gun in her lover/friend’s hand. So much for love.
Sloth opens on a dim-lit stage, where a video screen offers nothing but TV-like snow. Eight people in sloppy pants and t-shirts slump on chairs or else lie in a heap on the floor. The floor is littered with remnants of fast food meals, empty cardboard containers and the like. It takes an effort for anyone to move, even to lift a leg or change position. When the music changes to something more grating, the slothful ones get up and move with zombie stiffness, falling back on the floor where they bounce, thrust out their legs, and flounder like beached fish.
If all of this—including the Greed, Wrath and Vanity that followed—sounds a bit unpleasant, the video projections with their distorted images of dead animals, grotesque faces and bizarre settings take creepy to a new realm.
» 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.