Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Co.

February 18, 2011

Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Co.
Buttenweiser Hall

92nd Street Y, NYC

February 18–20, 2011

Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr


Joe Varca, Chad Hoeppner, and Robert Eli Thompson in Nancy Bannon’s
A Man of Wealth and Taste. Photo by Julie Lemberger, courtesy 92nd Street Y.

Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Company opened the annual Harkness Dance Festival with a mixed evening titled “LITup,” a potpourri of pieces by Young, Thomas, and four guest artists. Dancer Luke Miller turned the Y’s Buttenweiser Hall into a cabaret with casually arranged chairs, couches, carpets, and pillows for audience members, who were encouraged by a program note to “feel free to move around, change your seat or visit the bar anytime during the performance.” The informal setting and the drinks helped dampen our expectations for artistic epiphany.

Jonathan Belcher and David Ferri were credited as lighting designers, so we didn’t know whom to blame for the annoying on-and-off flashing of the lights that accompanied Young’s opener, Tensing. To electronic sound by Georgios Kontos, 10 notable dancers (including Miller, Darrin Wright, and Omagbitse Omagbemi), scattered throughout the space, did short fragments in unison groups and canons. Young’s distribution of the movement in space deftly averted chaos, but his intention remained elusive.

In Young’s other opus, Off (for Pedro & Ildikó), Pedro Osorio and Ildikó Tóth essentially made out, while Young’s real-time, close-up video of them was projected on the wall behind them. In Thomas’ Damsel, Keith Johnson walked a tightrope, flailed and rolled in typical postmodern style, and wrestled with a tangle of rope on the boxy little stage at one end of Buttenweiser.

Levi Gonzalez, in his Performance Experiment with Furniture, climbed over assorted furniture appropriated from the audience—a couch, benches, chairs, and stools—trying to keep his feet off the floor. The audience enjoyed his zany, self-imposed challenges. But the show’s most fully realized work was Nancy Bannon’s short play, A Man of Wealth and Taste. Actors Chad Hoeppner, Robert Eli Thompson, and Joe Varca portrayed three buttoned-up junior execs, letting off steam at a hockey game. They vociferously and profanely professed that this was “the MOST FUN EVER,” but we slowly learned that their bravado concealed personal misfortunes.

Geared to be equal parts concert and party—complete with DJs Terror Dactel and Damian Quinones—“LITup” recalled that ubiquitous phenomenon of the sixties, the “happening.” Neither part, party nor concert, was momentous, and it’s ironic that the most moving piece wasn’t even a dance.


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