Chicago Dance Crash
Theatre Building Chicago
July 25, 2008
Dance Crash bills itself as an innovative, multi-media company that draws on a synthesis of hip-hop, modern dance, ballet and athleticism to produce cutting edge productions. Faust, which premiered in Chicago on July 25th as an extrapolation of the Goethe epic, dishes up a modern-day morality tale that suffers from an overly confident reliance on facial mugging and ominous music to do the storytelling work we expect from the choreography in narrative ballets.
If Faust is any indication of what innovative means to these folks, they simply haven’t done their homework. The production could have benefited from judicious borrowing of some of the more brilliant realizations of Faust which already exist in theatre, opera, visual art, and literature. If you are going to retell a story of monumental theme with as great a universal impact as Faust has had since the 15th century, you had better be doing it with great authority, skill, and command over your material. And you better have something new to say about it. Otherwise, why bother?
Instead, Kyle Vincent Terry’s version trudged through a hodge-podge of one tired cliché after the next: From the sultry opening entrance of a female Mephistopheles with her three helpers (their presence evoked memories of Giselle’s wilis) puzzlingly costumed in lavender ballet practice tunics, pink tights, and pink point shoes; to the tired, random screen projections, accompanied by voice-over script just in case we didn’t “get it.” In between, a hip-hop goon squad and a chorus of sinners parade their bad influence around poor Faust until he succumbs to his baser instincts and corrupts an innocent young church-going girl, played with melodramatic overkill by the technically proficient Lyndsey Rhoads.
The hour and 25 minutes of interminable scenes smacked more of classroom études than movement invention, including the perplexing glissade brisé theme of the wilis. Pointe work here served no narrative function. The few sequences with choreography that attempted, however fleetingly, to delineate character, relationship, and story creativity capitalized on the technical facility of its attractive lead male dancer, Nebi Berhane, who played Faust, and Kathleen Purcell Turner, who played an ambiguous character identified in the program only as “Sarah.” One has to wonder what these fine professional dancers are doing among the unevenly trained Dance Crash regulars, under such amateurish direction and choreography.
Photo of Nebi berhane and Mary Tisa. By Emily Coughlin.