Friday, May 25, 2012

Strange characters invade Danspace Project

Michelle Ellsworth: The Pythagodress

At first, I wanted to bat Ellsworth away with a flyswatter. She talked a mile a minute and looked like she was about to jump out of her skin or fry herself from the nerves out. For god's sake, she wouldn't shut up! But how can you resist a crazy who's this brilliantly crazy--and entertaining to boot? Her solo is named for Pythagoras--yes, that Pythagoras--and for the voluminous Elizabethan dress that is far more than a dress, more like a prop, installation, fortress, way of life and numerological and metaphysical concept, designed by the equally brilliant Priscilla Cohan, Janice Lacek and Bruce Miller. I began to feel strongly protective of Ellsworth as her spindly, vulnerable fingers nervously wrangled with aluminum pipes and plastic buckles, snapping this piece to that piece, adjusting the extended dress into various functional configurations. But it became clear that she knew exactly what she was doing, had done this many times before. I detected in her a survivalist's terror beneath the wispy veneer of good cheer as the self-described problem-solver unpacked more and more of her hoarded supplies--everything from the expected (a roll of duct tape) to the bizarre ("a toilet paper roll that talks to me"--and, yes, my friends, it does--and a folding shrine to Martha Graham, complete with two white votive tapers). Her condensed, ineffectual recounting of The Odyssey, by means of a flannel board and cut-out characters, finally endeared her to me forever.

Andrew Dinwiddie: Farewell Tour

With neither the ancient KISS nor its Starchild frontman Paul Stanley on my radar, I had to do some Wikipedaling to remember exactly who Stanley was/is. If you don't know or don't remember, Dinwiddie's part-lipsynced, part-unplugged solo--another virtuosic impersonation from the man who gave us the supercharged Get Mad at Sin! in 2010--will remind you. Dinwiddie's character--a prancing id decked out in a thick, black, shoulder-length wig and facial hair and mask--utilizes and acts out the 2005 bootleg CD, People, Let Me Get This Off My Chest: The Very Best of Paul Stanley's On Stage Banter. Wielding his skull-topped wireless mic like a jester's baton and surrogate phallus, Dinwiddie manages to suggest both unbridled, expansive physicality and, because of the distant and distancing effect of the rock star's recorded voice and crowd noise, a certain ghostliness. (Stanley, like KISS itself, is still around, mind you, and even preparing to tour with Motley Crue, though the Wikipedia page notes hip replacement and vocal cord surgeries.) In the second, and rambling, half of this piece, set to a Chopin sonata, Stanley appears to go on mental walkabout. While I'm not sure what we're meant to make of this delicate passage, it's an interesting development, perhaps a spiritual one, and danced with care.

Andrew Dinwiddie and Michelle Ellsworth continue their shared evening at Danspace Project tonight and Saturday night, 8pm. For more information and tickets, click here.

Danspace Project
St. Mark's Church
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue), Manhattan
(directions)

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