Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dancing on the Edge (review)

This review is late. And I apologize. Word to the wise--keep your anti-virus software current. 'Nuff said.

Dancing on the Edge is the latest show from Zombie Joe's in North Hollywood. Directed by Denise Devin (who also did Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing as well as performing in such shows as Urban Death and Whore's Bath).

Seven dancers make up the ensemble, performing a total of 23 different pieces in about 60 minutes. The works cover a broad range from straightforward ballet ("Wabbit") to individual expressionism ("Hurt") and striptease ("Redemption"). The mood and feel involved include disturbing ("Ma Coeur Mort") to exhiliration ("Animal") and the interplay of power ("Bow Down").

The dancers themselves make quite an impact when it comes to their individual personalities and strengths. Two in particular shine out. Donna Noelle Ibale (also one of the five choreographers) demonstrated the kind of physical skills one comes to expect of truly fine dancers, not only in terms of precision and strength but expression. In fact, her characters vary quite a bit, some of them pretty extreme (including a wizened old woman with a cane as well as what seemed like a kind of angel of death, plus a sea creature). The fact is, lots of dancers only dance with their bodies. Many others also dance with their faces, which is much better. Ibale does all that and tops it by dancing with her eyes.

"Animal" Credit: Denise Devin
Zee Smith also shone but for a different reason. She, like the rest of the ensemble, showed skill and energy and commitment to the idea of each dance (not as common a thing as one might expect or hope, alas). But she has a certain something more, a charisma on stage that grabbed my attention. Near the end of the show she played a character who seemed so desperately unhappy I thought maybe it was her! I actually felt the desire to comfort her, to go up after the show and ask if there was anything I could do?

Other favorites included Nicole Wormley, a newcommer to ZJU whose 'roles' generally matched that of an ingenue, but quite a variety even within that archetype. Her partner several times was Randall Morris, who also demonstrated that most essential trait in all good performers--a willingness to come across as completely ridiculous (not gonna give away all the details but "Vaudeville Circus: Diva" included him in a tutu!) The pieces he himself choreographed ("Frene Anemones" and "Many Toys Celebrate Solstice") echoed Cirque du Soleil in some ways as did his piece "Tapping Down" (which I wish could have been longer).

Cody Whitley (another choreographer) brought vast energy and enthusiasm to his dancing, which is maybe why the show ended with one of his pieces, an ensemble pieced titled "Clarity." J.J.Dubon seemed in some ways yin to his yang. Whitley's energy went out, while Dubon's sucked you in. The former smiled with his mouth, the latter crying tearlessly from his eyes. Rounding out the company is Jade Waters-Burch, a tall and beautiful dancer hopefully all will remember from A Down and Dirty Christmas Carol.

"Ma Coeur Mort" Credit: Denise Devin
Carrie Nedrow choreographed fully ten of the pieces, and hers all touched on human drama, on moments in time between people--with one lovely exception that remains hilariously vivid in my imagination (we all laughed but methinks I laughed the loudest).

The problem with reviewing these twenty-plus dance pieces is that to say how any of them proceed is to perhaps ruin them for the first time goer. A poor way to treat audience members! So I'll confine myself to saying the individual pieces all contained considerable quality, and met the challenge of their tiny space with considerable skill. A few transitions ended up a touch ragged, while now and then I wished something were longer or more complex or that a specific dancer would go a little further. Yet at the same time, I smiled almost the whole show, and when I didn't that was certainly the way the dancers, choreographers and director desired my emotions to go! It touched my heart, and tickled my funny bone--and gave me a lovely evening's worth of entertainment!

Dancing on the Edge plays Saturdays August 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 and September 7, 14, 21 at 11pm. It also plays Sundays August 4, Sept. 8, 22 at 7pm. Tickets are $15 and the shows are at ZJU 4850 Lankershim Blvd (across from KFC) North Hollywood 818-202-4120

1 comment:

Zombie Joe said...

Two Performances left on Sundays at 7pm - September 15th & 22nd, 2013