Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble

June 6, 2009

Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble
Intimate Theatre

Cal State Los Angeles
June 6, 2009

Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf


Rudy Perez’
Surrender, Dorothy! Photo by Alexis Hawkins.


Displaying a knack for spinning everyday movement into gold when he was a member of the experimental Judson Dance Theater during the 1960s, postmodern icon Rudy Perez has lost none of that luster—even as he turns 80 in November. His creative mojo was on solid display in an evening entitled “A Tribute to Rudy Perez.”     


Performed by a core group of dancers who’ve been with the choreographer for years, as well as members of Sarah Swenson’s Vox Dance Theatre, the program, directed by Perez, was a brilliant mash-up of the old and new. Its four works blended seamlessly into 60 intermissionless minutes. Also upping the artistic ante was the pulsating music of minimalist composer Steve Moshier, who, with his venerable Liquid Skin Ensemble, provided live, rhythmically rich accompaniment.


The concert’s centerpiece was the premiere, Surrender, Dorothy!, Perez’ trenchant take on the writings of the late Dorothy Parker. While guest soprano Linda Brown lacked heft with her musical renderings, 19-year-old phenom and guest artist Daniel Dorr, seemed to channel Parker through his wry recitations, insouciant manner, and charismatic presence.


It was, though, the dancers who decidedly spoke volumes—with their bodies. Perez veterans, husband-and-wife team Anne and Jeff Grimaldo (a.k.a. Naked With Shoes), delighted with thigh-slapping, hip-swiveling, and unison arabesques, moves that bled into their own premiere, Without. Playfully aggressive (Anne towers over Jeff), their height discrepancies made for arresting visuals-cum-power-struggles.


Back in Parkerland there was an Edward Hopper-like atmosphere of brooding isolation as the Grimaldos were joined by Tamsin Carlson, Jamie Benson, and another Perez stalwart, Swenson. Silent screams, clenched fists, and backbend-walking predominated, until a canon of hops was unleashed by the vibrant quintet.


A series of balancing poses, quarter-turns, and leaps (think glorious gazelles) punctuated Swenson’s 2006 work, Cuatro. Rededicated to Perez for the occasion, this fierce segment featured Carlson, Courtney Meadows, Katrina Obarski and Swenson as a kind of prelude to Perez’ 1964 classic Alligator Variations (originally the duet Take Your Alligator with You). Fashioned anew by Perez for an ensemble, this Alligator still teemed with preening, sparring, and cavorting with umbrellas, the dancers gleefully retro (cocktail dresses by Claire Townsend), yet totally today.


Dorr then reappeared, bobbing around the merry prancers before concluding the performance with pure Parker: “Guns aren’t lawful, gas smells awful—you might as well live.”


Perez, by bending and twisting time through his signature pedestrian moves, proved once again that his art remains timeless.