Joe Goode Performance Group 2002

January 19, 2002

Marc Morozumi and Marit Brook-Kothlow in Joe Goode’s “Shut Up and Dance.”
RJ Muna, courtesy Joe Goode Performance Group

Joe Goode Performance Group

Cowell Theater
San Francisco, California

January 19, 2002

Reviewed by Rita Felciano

The annual Side Effects Series, Joe Goode’s semi-formal presentation of work in progress and excerpts of select works from the past, has become so popular that this year he moved it from its previous studio setting to the 400-seat Cowell Theater where it promptly sold out. Goode explained the program’s provacative title, “Shut Up and Dance: Can Language and Movement Coexist?” as a challenge to those who question the compatibility of text and movement. By purposefully choosing text-heavy pieces, he also hoped to figure out for himself in which direction he might want to take his work.

If there was a through-line to “Shut Up and Dance,” it is that he shouldn’t do the former but also continue the latter. In other words, Goode’s way of having text bounce off movement and dance expands the implications of language. He has trained a highly professional ensemble that delivers text and movement with equal facility. These artists also are accomplished actors and, increasingly, singers and musicians. To venture a guess, at least in the short run the work will move even farther away from dance, with the company becoming more and more of a musical theater-type ensemble. But its role in deepening a work’s emotional thrust seems to become less and less important.

Two sections from Mythic, Montana, which will premiere May 31 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, certainly tend to point that way. The main character, a 14-year-old punk girl (Marit Brook-Kothlow), promises to be one of those Goodean anti-heroines whose verbal toughness only highlights her vulnerability. At this point she is much more clearly defined by what she says than what she does. In last year’s Transparent Body, movement definitely takes a back seat in this quasi-commedia dell’arte cabaret act in which Goode expounds on the relationship between theatrical and absolute truth. It’s his most obviously philosophical work, also his least movement inspired.

Two excerpts from the 1998 Gender Heroes showed just how skillfully Goode can make dance and language speak to each other. The masterful “The Boys,” portrayed two fugitives on the run. Marc Morozumi talked nonstop, Felipe Barrueto-Cabello not at all. Physical imagery of being hunted and Morozumi’s hysterical chatter tightly reinforced each other to create an evolving partnership, maybe between lovers, which was defined by heart-stopping fear but ironically, also tenderness. The balladlike “Sailor’s Solo” came across as a more generalized swagger and sense of impatience (in previous performances had offered a more nuanced mix of anger, pain, and defiance). Barrueto-Cabello sat at a bar: Mostly you saw him from behind, getting more and more drunk, falling, leaning against or dancing on top of the bar, and above all thrusting his rump into our faces. This gesture and the constantly recurring rhyme of “Are you looking at my ass?” brutally unmasks voyeurism but also has a sense of innocence to it, much as we might expect to hear in a ribald folk song.