Rebecca Slazer : Mary Reid

May 9, 2001

Deanna Ross, left, and kath Davis of Rebecca Salzer Dance Theater paid tribute to moms in the comic piece Mother’s Day Variations.
Photo courtesy Rebecca Salzer Dance Theater

Rebecca Salzer Dance Theater
Mary Reid & Smaller Than Life

ODC Theater
San Francisco, California

May 9?13, 2001

Reviewed by Sima Belmar

The evening started with Mary Reid?s solo Simply Stated. Choreographed in 1987, the dance nodded comically at an 1980s aesthetic. Following a mock-seductive striptease (from oversized gray sweatshirt to oversized black T-shirt), Reid executed a series of walks, skips, and measured hand gestures. David Hodnett?s tabla-inflected house music rolled steadily along, keeping Reid on rhythm. She looked calm and alert, and avoided milking the comedic effect with exaggerated grimaces. But Simply Stated was a deeper dance than its surface implied. Rather than pedestrianizing movement in a hyper-intellectual fashion, Reid skipped and skipped, like a middle-aged woman with a youthful spirit, making a subtle point about showmanship and spectacle. It was movement pared down, a deconstruction of the concept of performance, commanding attention with a light touch.

Reid?s style, a mixture of bald-faced goofiness and impeccable technique, renders her majestic onstage. Her work is unpretentious and risks vulnerability. In Fear Not (1995), Reid came forward in her silk pajamas to recount recurring dreams involving walls of water crashing down on her. Between stories, Reid and Jonny McPhee performed fairly classic modern dance sprinkled with jazz ball-changes and distorted by their deadpan delivery and quirky attack. They talked about the things they feared: clowns, “Dear John” letters, garbage disposals, botulism, failure, electrocution, psycho bird attacks. In the dance?s final moments, Reid recounted a liberating dream: She spoke of a tidal wave on one side and a movie projector on the other, which seemed to mean her fears weren?t real. Then McPhee splashed her with a bucket of confetti. When Reid staged the piece in 1995, the bucket was full of water, and it needed that dose of reality again.

Reid also offered Overload (1997), a quartet for overwhelmed, overbooked, and underpaid multitaskers, set to another Hodnett score of clock mechanisms.

Rebecca Salzer?s 1996 Duet for herself and M. Koob was funny when you knew what was coming, and downright side-splitting when you didn?t. While Salzer and Koob performed a balletic duet, a woman began waving and snapping flash photos from the front row of the theater. Predictably, viewers began casting sidelong glances at each other until the woman jumped up and shouted, “That?s my daughter!” This woman (Salzer?s real-life mother) then joined the couple onstage. To Koob she said things like, “Rebecca hasn?t mentioned you,” and “Have you known her long?” The dancers rolled their eyes, trying to continue, even as mom joined in with an occasional sauté.

Salzer also presented the evening?s one premiere, Mother?s Day Variations. Three women sat on stools with their husbands? heads in their laps. The men lovingly kissed their wives, surreptitiously blowing up inflatable latex belly pouches hidden under their dresses. One section involved four raging moms-to-be in a confrontational hip-hop. There was a scatological doo-wop, a parade of oversized babies learning to walk, and dancers in vagina formation that birthed one of the cast members, which elicited tears of laughter from viewers.