David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group

April 14, 2005

Photo by Dierdre

David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group
Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, New York, NY

April 14–16, 2005

Reviewed by Nancy Alfaro


David Neumann is an engaging, committed, humorous, and wildly kinetic performer. It was surprising then, how little dance movement he gave the cast of tough, the tough, his minimalist, movement-based rumination on humans’ inner- and outer-reality shows.

The work began promisingly as Neumann (with the cast joining later) listened and adhered to instructions and observations intoned by his taped, Rod Serling-esque “inner voice.” (Playwright Will Eno imbued the text with a fine, dry wit.) Tension and intensity grew as performers came and went, working with and against each other physically, but the piece never seemed to reach a climax.

A vaudevillian stew, tough, the tough appropriates movement from The Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and pedestrian tasks, with a dash of martial arts thrown in. Yet its minimalism and the performers’ deadpan projection left the audience hovering in a near-frustrating real-time limbo. Viewers livened during the slapstick slapping duets that occurred periodically, but seemed to be waiting for what was really going to happen.

The performers, dressed in stylized mechanics’ coveralls by Miho Nikaido, made the most out of the movement. Chris Yon and Kimiye Corwin stood out: he with his puddin’-faced humor and light step; she with her focused lushness. The cast did not look like stereotypical dancers, which enhanced the appearance of people going about their daily lives—these were not untouchable, ethereal creatures. David Moodey’s lighting offered a contrasting feeling of serenity, and Hal Hartley’s sparse score contributed to the isolated aura.

And Neumann knows how to work a room—specifically the Danspace Project’s ever-challenging, four-sided performance space. He managed to satisfy viewers on all sides with his well-crafted, seamless entrances, exits, and 360-degree staging—no neck-craning or “Wish-I’d-gotten-here-earlier” thinking needed.

In a funny, surprising homage to film wizardry, Foley-like sounds accompanied the dancers’ onstage moves. People hidden in the balcony squeaked floorboards and stomped and creaked as the dancers traversed the space, creating one of the evening’s highlights.

For more information: www.advancedbeginnergroup.org