Four on the Floor
Alison Dietterle-Smith and Daniel Marshall in
CAR MEN and the women who love them
Photo by Elazar Harel
Four on the Floor
Santa Barbara Dance Theatre, LEVYdance, San Diego Dance Theater
San Diego State University Dance Studio Theater, San Diego, CA
April 8–9, 2005
Reviewed by Janice Steinberg
Cars and relationships figured, aptly, in the California Regional Dance Touring Project’s “Four on the Floor.” Launched this year by choreographer Jean Isaacs, the collaboration exposed San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara audiences to each other’s companies instead of the usual Eastern and international touring fare. As the strong, varied program in San Diego made clear, it’s about time. (The San Francisco and Santa Barbara programs had a different mix of dances and included the Los Angeles company Tongue.)
Two couples in car seats alternately connected and parried each other in Santa Barbara Dance Theatre’s playful Love Is Short and Forgetting So Long (2004), set on them by choreographer Doug Elkins. With rubbery spines and gymnastic cartwheels and rolls—and a score running from the Beach Boys through Björk—the seven-member cast revisited teenage social rituals, ultimately emerging from adolescence via sultry partnering in trunks and bra tops. Strange Boat, by SBDT director Jerry Pearson, featured fine-tuned ensemble work.
Prickly and thrilling, Benjamin Levy’s two 2004 dances for San Francisco-based LEVYdance whipped his taut young dancers from sustained movements into agitated flails, and from mutual support to attack. In Holding Pattern, a man and two women tangled, more vying organisms than personalities—until locked gazes at the end delivered an erotic jolt. That Four Letter Word, for five dancers (including Levy), contrasted ballroom-style partnering with desperate encounters, with Brooke Gessay so vivid she burned. In 24-year-old Levy’s tantalizingly disturbing work, the most satisfying romance occurred when a trio fondled balloons, which squealed as the dancers, looking dreamy with pleasure, deflated them.
San Diego Dance Theater is a seasoned ensemble, and it showed in the company’s fluency with the multiple layers of Isaacs’ new CAR MEN, and the women who love them. This wry, 1950s-flavored piece featured a wandering soprano (Stacey Fraser) in a slinky red dress. Singing arias from Bizet’s Carmen, she stalked among the seven dancers as they shifted from sizzling flirtation to lyrical lifts to clowning; for instance, Faith Jensen-Ismay writhed in ecstasy while Victor Alonso passionately polished a yellow coupe. Isaacs, a master juggler of stagecraft and collaboration, deftly balanced the dancers, Fraser, and the Steve Baker Trio doing Baker’s Latin-jazz adaptations from the Bizet score.
For more information: www.sandiegodancetheater.org