Chicago Dance Crash

June 17, 2005

Christopher M. McCray in
Tribulation and the Demolition Squad.
Photo by Kristie Kahns, courtesy Chicago Dance Crash

Chicago Dance Crash
Storefront Theater, Chicago, IL

June 17–26, 2005

Reviewed by Hedy Weiss


Chicago Dance Crash is a young company that has staked its claim on that amorphous theatrical territory where storytelling, stage combat, martial arts, acrobatics, contact improv, and other dance forms meet and converge.

The troupe’s new full-length piece, Tribulation and the Demolition Squad, is the work of writer-choreographer Mark Hackman, who has trained in gymnastics, kickboxing, tae kwon do, wrestling, mask work, ballet, and more. In his intensely kinetic meditation on good and evil—and the strange temptations of both—he has created the sort of gonzo spectacle that neither “pure dancers” nor “pure actors” could perform.

An alternately riveting and frustrating hybrid, Hackman’s work draws on the crash-and-burn energy so often found in video games as well as the righteous rhetoric of New Testament evangelism (voiced by an omnipotent narrator). Conflict, whether in the form of urban gang warfare or internal moral strife, is of the essence. And while the bombastic writing grew tiresome, the performers’ bravura scene playing was marked by fearlessness and impressive control. Think Matthew Bourne, but with a more primitive, ritualistic, streetwise attack.

Billed as “a movement play in two acts,” the various scenes in Tribulation were set to the music of Prince, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Groove Rider, Bahamadia, and others. More than two dozen dancers assumed the roles of noble (and not so noble) savages, lovers, losers, louts, and street combatants. On the prowl throughout, and suggesting the beast within, was the Demolition Squad—noble savages danced by the charismatic Kyle Vincent Terry, along with Christopher M. McCray and Jamie Farrell. Adam Doi assumed the role of the ambivalent “hero”—a young man torn between action and inaction, the right way and the tempting way. Sara Keating—a tiny, powerhouse dancer whose virtuosity was superbly showcased in a show-stopping solo—played a girl with a serious drug habit who is destined for destruction. Joining them were the characters of Snowball (Michael Moran), a ferocious fighter with a short fuse; Tonya (Marissa Moritz), the female warrior who lives to take command; Treble (Christopher Courtney), a more mysterious presence; and an ever-morphing ensemble.

The blood-sport aspect of Tribulation brought to mind the classic film Clockwork Orange. And like that film, this work triggered an adrenaline surge that ultimately had something of a numbing effect.

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