Miro Dance Theatre

September 7, 2006

Miro Dance Theatre
Philadelphia Live Arts Festival

Cinema at Penn, Philadelphia, PA

September 7, 2006

Reviewed by Lewis Whittington

(left to right): Kristin Osler, Amanda Miller, Rick Callender, and Melissa Toogood in Miro Dance Theatre�s Lie to Me and shorter stories

Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou, courtesy Miro Dance Theatre


Poor Judy Garland. The specter of the troubled star is invoked, in boozy tirades, as part of the soundtrack to Miro Dance Theatre’s Lie to Me and shorter stories. Her private rant about her life (privately recorded by Garland herself for a proposed memoir) is used to set up Miro’s ironic dramaturgy.

Artistic directors Tobin Rothlein and Amanda Miller collaborated with Antony Rizzi (William Forsythe dancer and ballet master) to concoct a dance-theater montage that employs cinema verité (by Rizzi and Rothlein) and intermittent choreography (by Miller and Rizzi) in pursuit of an exposé about performers.

Rothlein introduces fictional film characters, but we never find out why because we never see them again. He then interviews the live dancers about their lives, fantasies, and lies. This stream of consciousness quickly turns heavy handed, and convolutions of the concept implode early on. The conciliations that artists make in pursuit of their art are obtusely drawn. This interrogative style leads to some comedy, however; for example, when one of the dancers mocks what critics write. It was a perfect setup for the dancers to editorialize on dance writing, but instead Lie to Me doesn’t illuminate the artists’ point of view.

The moments of clear dance text were more satisfying, but too brief. Rick Callender danced behind a scrim in what looked like a cutout holographic image of a film of another dancer, Andre Zachary, in a garden fountain. This film-and-live sequence had the surreal tranquility of a Maxfield Parrish painting. A duet by Melissa Toogood and Kristin Osler had a disturbing, haunted quality reminiscent of Diane Arbus photographs. A witty, lively trio by the women, led by Miller, with Callender on the sidelines trying to distract them, deflates when they lumber off, carting chairs in an uninspired choreographic bailout.

Miller has a gorgeous and poignant segment, though, as a tattered ballerina in an origami tutu. Her ballet prowess has not dimmed since she left Pennsylvania Ballet, and she gets to show her lithe pointe work both pristinely and satirically. Not as successful was her solo scored to more of soused Judy’s rantings. By then you get the feeling that Miro is artistically slumming. The company doesn’t shy away from weighty themes on the dance stage, but Lie to Me buckles under too much gravitas. See www.mirodancetheatre.org.