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Les Grands Ballets de Loony.

June 10-11, 1995

Something there is that doesn't love a ballerina. She is so beautiful and so scrutinized that her art can come to seem ridiculously earnest, and a rich subject for parody. But it's almost as difficult to dance poorly as to dance well; parody is as tricky to pull off as ballet. And Les Grands Ballets de Loony succeeds only once in a while.

Most of the company's satirical numbers consist of swaggering show-stopper cliches trotted out uncritically by a cast combining men dressed en travesti with classically credentialed, mugging ladies. The cliches (such as totally traditional impersonations of Carmen Miranda and Shirley Temple) aren't physically detailed enough or conceptually bold enough to seem genuinely subversive or funny, even though the communal energy is always gung-ho. And send-ups of particular ballets, such as Balanchine's Square Dance (retitled The Square's Dance, choreographed by artistic director Marcus Galante, and a premiere), are filled with capers yet add up to little.

The exception is The Dying Swan, a spoof of Fokine. Loony's uncredited version has the magnificently muscled ballerina la Tollah (played by the Joffrey's Michael Anderson) shedding countless white feathers from her tutu while also covering the stage with utterly persuasive bourrees. (la Tollah, as revealed in her program bio note, had to be smuggled out of an unspecified Islamic country after "declaring holy war on fanatical preachers who had attempted to force her to wear black pointe shoes.") The dance and the dancer are ideally suited to each other, and the parody is so sharply articulated that any true balletomane would probably be delighted.

By contrast, Physical Comedies, Vol. 1 offered an extensive program subject to all kinds of tomfoolery, not just parodies. The evening, coproduced by Town Hall and Dance Theatre Workshop, assembled ten humorous pieces by eight modern dance choreographers. Introduced by David White and unofficially emceed by Mitchell Rose, the program was unpredictably buoyant and wholesomely silly. It felt curative.

Two choreographer-dancers set especially high standards: Claire Porter and Beverly Blossom. In Fund Raiser Porter begged her audience for financial support in a self-satire that was both spoken and danced. Porter's exceptionally detailed gamut of tics (oral, facial, body) was masterfully orchestrated to thrive on the repetition of patterns until it seemed as if some nerve would have to burst fram the artful pressure. Dad's Ties, Blossom's highly idiosyncratic comic clergy about her father, involved neckties as props with a grand ingenuousness.

Rose, who put dance behind him in 1990 to study at the American Film Institute, made a very welcome return to the stage. His two equally witty audience-participation rituals, Process of Elimination and Dance Along with Mitch, massaged and tickled those gathered at Town Hall until New Yorkism--that degenerate piquant blend of pretension, malcontentment, edge, and appetite--bubbled and bled. The survivors were limp and grateful.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Symphony Space, New York, New York
Author:McQuade, Molly
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Oct 1, 1995
Previous Article:School of American Ballet.
Next Article:Physical Comedies, vol. 1.

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