By STEELEDANCE; Directed and Choreographed by Teri and Oliver Steele
Off Off Broadway, Dance
May 2-10, 2015
Salvatore Capezio Theatre at Peridance, 126 East 13th Street
by Jane Sato on 5.7.15
SteeleDance. Photo by Kyle Georgina Marsh.
BOTTOM LINE: From start to finish, the 20th Anniversary Season of STEELEDANCE's Devastating Beauty is thought provoking and visually arresting.
The show begins with a ritualistic dressing and adorning of a red head literally put up on a pedestal. Filling the stage are six other women, in tutus, holding fabric suspended from hoops. Five men enter and partner the women as if to begin a standard classical pas de deux, but as the men remove the tutus from the women, they begin letting the fabric trace their movement like the wake of a ship. It is unexpected, but so is everything else in this show. The music ranges from classical to techno and there are six different costume changes, all flattering, from pastel chiffon skirts to black and white pants and tops. The twenty rock solid dancers that STEELDANCE has curated from the NYC dance scene all add an eclecticism to the work that is often danced in unison phrasing.
The mood remains light and ephemeral with trios and groups darting across the floor like jellyfish with flowing skirts. Alex Dean Speedie’s dark and murky solo is the first change in this evening-length dance and it marks a powerful shift. His dancing evokes a raw grace and meditative quality. A sensitive duet follows with dancer Meredith Fages dancing to the first recorded words of the evening, asking “Is she happy? She only knows what happy was when she is not happy.” These deep questions are layered with fabric as a possible metaphor for pulling the wool over your eyes or how Photoshop is used these days to filter everything we see.
Devastating Beauty utilizes fabric: worn loosely, as a bind, and draped over all the movement as a fashion designer would envision. The fabric is puffed overhead by the men who dictate its every move as the women do a phrase on the floor underneath as if suppressed. Another distortion of beauty is the sporting of high heels (by fashion designer Christian Siriano) by all the women, who actually wear them in extreme discomfort while an adolescent girl plays an onlooker with envy.
There are pure dance moments as well, and another standout duet is one between Donnell Oakley and Carolyn Cryer, recalling two cherubs floating on a cloud together, intimately sharing a moment. Hollis Bartlett leaps and bounds as if on a trampoline and the entire cast is well rehearsed and committed to the physicality and intricacy of the work. A man is adorned with the same jewelry as in the beginning and he finds his mate. They seem like Adam and Eve as he is tempted by her sensuality, and as he coerces her and convinces her of his love, she finds herself literally tied by her bun with fabric ribbons to the corners of the stage.
Aiming to please and the obsession with being beautiful are inherently tied together and the director/choreographer team Teri and Oliver Steele demonstrate these concepts visually. I’d like to ponder on the idea that beauty and freedom are synonymous. This vision of STEELEDANCE could be likened to reading multiple books at the same time. If you like that amount of stimulation, then you will enjoy this show immensely.
(Devastating Beauty plays at the Salvatore Capezio Theater, 126 East 13th Street, through May 10, 2015. Performances are Saturday, May 2 at 7; Saturday, May 9 at 8; and Sunday, May 10 at 3 and 7. Tickets are $15-$30 and are available at brownpapertickets.com.)