Saturday, February 4, 2012

Horseplay, 4/6/09

Taiwanese dance group Horse at Joyce Theater

Horse, the male troupe from Taiwan presented by Eliot Feld’s Mandance Project, performed two evenings at the Joyce Theater recently. Wedged among eleven shows of Feld repertory, the evenings have in common the dancers Wu-Kang Chen and Wei-Chia Su. The company performed the US premiere of Bones, an austere work that edges away from a reliance on visual jokes and puns—horseplay, if you will.
The setting and costumes beg comparison to a Calvin Klein ad—in a good way. The five men wear different colored briefs and tees (costumes by Jordan Koh). They’re set against clean white walls with jagged angled tops lining the stage; with one swinging door for entrances, plus downstage openings (set by Jih-Chun Huang). As the show progresses, clothing is added and subtracted.
The movement is appealing in part because it looks like experimentation that anyone could do, but taken to an extreme—as if one rule was set and then followed to exhaustion. This “na├»ve” style alternates with flashes of virtuosity, pushing the limits of the technique to satisfy purists. Shu-Yi Chou, in particular, has an elegant, vivid line. Frenetic phrases of whipping legs and arms, or two dancers leaning on one another, can yield to complex, knotty trio work, or a would-be animal herd.
Velocity, seen here in 2008, contained more slapstick humor and use of props. In Bones, one funny segment features a man who, despite being chased and disrobed piece by piece by another dancer, doesn’t break stride. In another part, one man sits atop another to form a giant.
Set to “music details” by Yannick Dauby, some of the sections blur together in the mind or run on a bit long, but there is a basic curiosity and sweetness that appeals. I just hope the company doesn’t completely lose the sense of humor that sets them apart.
Photo: Chiang Chih Chen

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