The Joyce Theater, NYC
September 25–October 7, 2007
Reviewed by Theresa Ruth Howard
You say you want a Revolution? Well the one playing at The Joyce may not be exactly what you had in mind. The curtain stood open revealing a set of pipe-like structures, which housed the pre-set band within. A là reality shows like Big Brother, a video screen hung center high displaying voyeuristic scenes from backstage (dressing and warm up rooms, backstage hallway, stage-door entrance, and staircase). The band began to wail as the dancers took the stage tapping in silhouette, and rock concert lighting took over the theater. Two not so inconspicuous cameramen caught live feed of the performers, dipping and swaying, seemingly having choreography of their own.
The ubiquitous behind-the-scenes theme of reality TV was the loose concept of Revolution. First, we were introduced to our leading men via solos. Michael Schulster danced to the videoed rhythmical clicking of his guitar and its case, his voice-over telling of his love for tap and the guitar (later he would lose points with the over-animated Bruce Springsteenesque number he did with an actual guitar). Joel Hanna, a mini-me doppelganger for Red Hot Chili Peppers rocker Dave Navarro, answered back, telling us how he fuses Kung Fu with tap—again supplemented with video. Like an omniscient guide, the video screen announced “The Process.” “The Audition” took us though a video montage of reject rolls of hopeful female vocalists until Sonia De Los Santos (the winner) stands before us and sings with her projected self—but it’s not Rock Star or American Idol: Rewind. In playing more to the dancing videographers, she lost the audience and was less than compelling, making us wonder why she got the job. In yet another routine for the men, Hanna toted a bottle of water, another dancer a towel. One ran in late to indicate the “Rehearsal.” This time we were treated to video of dancers in the studio with lots of flesh shots of the women writhing in slow-mo.
Choreographed by the two creators and front men of the show, Schulster (Tap Dogs) and Hanna (“Riverdance: The Show”), the tap sections were strong and dynamic. Their divergent styles were easily discernable: the loose-torso Hoofer from the erect armless Irish stepper. A testosterone fest, Revolution played like a Super Bowl commercial: The men danced up a storm as the “Babes” prowled and gyrated around them wearing skintight, or barely there costumes. The women looked like bad renditions of contestants from The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll, swinging hair so hard it would give Beyoncé whiplash. Interestingly enough, they never had their own section, albeit they did get to do their best competition-style trick moves when they wantonly hurled themselves at one man who tossed them off one by one. Very So You Think You Can Dance? Think again. The “additional choreography” Nicki Loud created (I assume mainly for the women), was very high school dance club (and I don’t mean the Disney Musical). Amateurish and cheesy, it was either Jazz 101 in tap shoes, classic stripper moves, or worse yet that disturbingly confounding competition-circuit term “lyrical,” none of which flattered the dancers. This is what crippled the show.
The company of eight (four women, four men, not including the creators) gave their all in the hour and change they were on stage; sweat did indeed fly. The high-energy showmanship of the male dancers combined with wailing guitars and wicked lighting (designer Ryan J. O’Gara does rock) definitely got the blood racing. It was something to watch, and for the reality show demographic of Tweens, I can see them Facebooking the cast.
The biggest problem with Revolution is that it tried too hard to be hip, cool, and sexy. If I could offer one bit of advice to these two creative young lions it would be, realize that dance is hip, it’s cool, and it is sexy. There is no need for hyperbole, or over animation—it reduces it to camp, and makes it cheesy. A person dancing in the moment, committed to the movement…now that’s hot! Unfortunately this Revolution should not be televised.