Hysterica Dance Company
Ryan Heffington and Erin Giraud danced Kitty McNamee’s fantasy-like Sticks and Stones.
Michael Horta, courtesy Hysterica Dance Company
Hysterica Dance Company
John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
Los Angeles, California
July 5, 2002
Reviewed by Donna Perlmutter
It doesn’t take a practiced eye to see that Kitty McNamee is a natural. Her choreography for Hysterica Dance Company, a thriving Los Angeles troupe now in its fifth year, looks like the real thing: a mix of what works for her dancers technically and artistically, the pop-culture reference points she shares with them (as seen in their loose, MTV-style locomotions), and that most elusive gift, originality. You see it in how steps and structure grow from an underlying narrative based on contemporary European motifs, à la Pina Bausch.
But don’t expect easy classifications. While McNamee’s style is eclectic, she takes her material from the stream of movement we see on music videos and yes, from ballet. The difference, however, between what she does, as opposed to the work of an artless mix-and-match usurper, couldn’t be clearer than in her world premiere, Sticks and Stones.
Eroticism is central to McNamee’s aesthetic. It propels the action and interaction. It paralleled the music, as much in the electronic soft-rock numbers as in the string quartet adagios. It explained the bare-legged, barefoot freedom and Rock ‘N Sissy’s exercise-chic costumes. And, not least, it quite unself-consciously invited the audience to witness a practicum of pleasure between choreographer and dancers.
But Sticks and Stones lacks in coherence what a stronger story line or theme might give it. The piece opened with a couple, positioned upstage, sitting at home on their cozy couch?he (Matt Sims) engrossed in his laptop computer, she (Katie Eastburn) singing songs badly and off-key. What subsequently transpired in front of them?the whole evening’s dance numbers?could be seen as her fantasy. Which is fine. And the dancers?especially Erin Giraud and Tara Avise, who, with their perfect legs and exceptional technique, powerfully articulated the implied relational conflicts between them.
Here we got sly intimations of ballet technique: dancers using their well-oiled turnout in partnered duets and solos, not to mention their stretched feet, high arches, and beautiful extensions. But as they moved through the various vignettes, set to Sims’s wide-ranging score, all sorts of uniquely expressionist movements made up the various scenarios and commented on their absurdity?two women doing a fast, unison tip-toe march with bent knees, for instance.
Unfortunately, lead dancer Ryan Heffington, who choreographed his own solos, didn’t fit the whole. He alone stoked the coals of cliché, and, in an excess of self-indulgence, reveled in the spotlight for in his tortured, twitching, slithering spasms and auto-erotic machinations.