Mia Michaels R.A.W.

February 17, 1999

Mia Michaels r.a.w. (reality at work)

Playhouse 91
New York City, New York

February 17-21, 1999

Reviewed by Don McDonagh

An emerging talent in the jazz dance firmament, choreographer Mia Michaels made her notable New York debut with an intelligently varied sampler of her most recent works. Intensity, along with unisex costuming and movement, are givens in Michaels’s choreography.

001101.com, which received its first performance, is an ingenious portrayal of humanoid love expressed with the passion of robots. Two women and two men, dressed in subdued gray trousers and broad silver band tops, stutter-move through hesitant bondings. At one point they eloquently express their high-tech feelings with a pinpoint of hot red laser light that they seem to toss from one to another. The effect is wonderful but this vision of the future is slightly chilling.

Jacob’s Well, a work in progress, groups six women at the center of the stage in transparent shifts, huddling and talking unintelligibly. Frequent touching, a supported walk by one woman stepping on the offered hands of three others, and two of them propping up two others who sag suggest a certain shared bond between them. The breast-beating that accompanies the blues-tinged score at another point underscores the somberness of the piece, but its causes lie mysteriously outside overt expression.

Two pieces from repertory completed the program: Against the Current and No Strings Attached (sections 3 and 4). There is an attitude of high-energy swagger underlying both the works. Against the Current draws four men and four women into a workout that would be intimidating to the bystander if they were not so genuinely self-involved in dancing well and if the dance did not conclude with the dancers’ arms opened to the audience. Strings has the cocky stance of a musical number that regularly tosses a watch-this-one wink to the audience before ambling confidently off to another variation.

The dancers are beautifully attuned to the demands that Michaels places on them. Stamina is taken for granted, but beyond that, “being there”-in the sense of exuding a vivid presence even when not moving-is required. It really would be unfair to name just one member of the group, so in reverse alphabetical order they are Julia Wyda, Ronnie Todorowski, Tiffany Tregarthen, Jason Parsons, Ariel Osterweis, Mark Meismer, Corinne McFadden, Shawnda James, Daniella Cavaleri, and Ioana Alfonso.

See feature story on Mia Michaels in the August 1998 issue of Dance Magazine.