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DANCE REVIEW : FRINGE THEATRE SERIES EXPLORES POWER OF SEX

Times Dance Writer

In a weekend festival of choreography and performance art at the Downtown Dance Studio, some of the torchbearers of the local avant-garde concentrated on the destructive power of sex and, in particular, the issue of erotic transfixion.

Everything from a state of furious loneliness to the psychic paralysis caused by Calvin Klein’s underwear ads turned up as the subject of works on the first two programs of the ongoing (through Sunday) L.A. Fringe Theatre “10 L.A. Choreographers” series at the old Challenge Creamery Building near Little Tokyo.

Half the choreographers came from the CalArts dance department and what they presented in this 90-seat hall--with its T-shaped stage framed by concrete lotus-columns--bore a distinct family resemblance. Besides a dark, sexual perspective, the similarities extended to such odd details as the use of the same go-go era arm-roll in three of the six pieces.

In her tense, strongly danced solo “Cellophane Hearts” (Saturday), L. Martina Young prowled a forest of silver heart-balloons--embracing them as if they were lovers, desperately gathering them only to watch them drift away, becoming entangled in them and, from time to time, making bitter comments both in speech and in the sign language of the deaf. David Allen Young provided suitably ominous live accompaniment.

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A revised version of D’warf’s “Book of Kells” (Friday) depicted the archetypal fatal-desire tale, the story of Tristan and Isolde, filling the deep, narrow stage with layers of contrasting movement: slinky Druid incantations, intense mime, nasty swordplay, weighty modern dance floor-work and rhapsodic ballet duets for two excellent dancers, Jeffrey Gysin and Anita Pace-Warfield. Ambitious, promising, but still only fitfully coherent.

Deborah Oliver’s work-in-progress “Girl Stories” (Saturday) began with portentous narration (“a hickey is blood in someone’s mouth”), then developed into a movement study about passive female fascination with male brutality (troops of women watching a man grow progressively violent with his partners), but ended in driving, pointless jazz aerobics.

Rikky George, the Sebastian Venable of local dance, recycled his fixation on ‘50s camp and homosexual violence in the illustrated monologue “Private Practices” (Saturday). Flanked by two guys in jockstraps, like Mae West with her musclemen, George ventured an intriguing facsimile of drag-suicide (by burning and hanging), but otherwise merely supplied dated outre punctuation to a fine pop song set by the Andy Howe Trio with vocalist Arnold McCuller.

Where George attempted to glamorize effeminacy, John C. Goss broke down so-called swishy gestures into action-units and defiantly flung them at the audience in his inventive performance art piece “reMale Moves” (Friday). A program note promised an attempt to confront “a masculine ‘other’ in place of the traditionally posed female"--but nothing so revolutionary transpired in this thoughtful look at contemporary homosexual style and the conflict between personal/traditional norms of “masculine” behavior.

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Out of place in such company, Amy White’s simplistic, minimalist “Choreography” (Friday) did contrast male and female execution of synchronous motion at one point, but its catalogue of the components of theater-dance went nowhere except for one brief solo.

Wearing a Walkman and headphones over a layered top and jodhpurs, Lisa Kellogg twisted and undulated in place, lost in music that the audience could but dimly hear. Our city teems with this kind of private dancer and, by copying one for the stage, White just may have created the series’ most pertinent and indelible image.


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