Everett Dance Theatre

October 14, 2004

Everett Dance Theatre
Dance Theater Workshop, New York, NY

October 14–16, 2004

Reviewed by Susan Yung


Watching Providence-based Everett Dance Theatre’s Home Movies is a bit like meeting a stranger who immediately shares too much personal information with you. At first it’s charming, but it can soon devolve into an uncomfortably lopsided conversation. Through seamlessly integrated spoken passages, projected films and photographs, dance, and music, Everett’s five performers take turns recounting details of their lives, from birth to the present. The collectively created movement is tailored to each performer’s skill level, but it takes a back seat to their acting skills.

The piece begins with the dancers spilling onstage in a diagonal rush, one sliding to the floor to be hoisted up by another’s clasping hand or the group team-lifting someone. The movement flows smoothly, blending pedestrian steps with jazz, modern, and musical-theater influences. Rachael Jungels, the sole woman and the most technically skilled, dances a number of loose, boppy connecting and background solos. In the most effective segments, the group performs choreography that takes its cue from the subject matter under discussion—shadow boxing, a strip joint, chickens with their heads cut off.

We meet each dancer, accompanied by film montages projected on raised and lowered scrims, in person. Marvin Novogrodski, of Polish/Jewish heritage, was chosen for a role in a play only to have it taken away. Sokeo Ros, born in a Cambodian refugee camp, became an artist despite all odds. Rachael Jungels was rejected, then accepted at Juilliard. Bravell Gracia Smith’s family lived comfortably when he was little but eventually lapsed into bankruptcy, which prevented him from being able to give his father a proper burial. And Aaron Jungels, the quirkiest of the bunch, told of decapitating chickens and riding his bike on a 300-mile journey when he was 11. I now know more details about these people—charming though they may be—than I do about many people I’ve known for years.

The collaged soundtrack provides much of each scene’s atmosphere, but inexcusably, no credits were given. Too bad the collegiality stopped short of acknowledging the tremendous emotional import of Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “What a Wonderful World” and other songs.

For more information: www.everettdancetheatre.org