Dance Reviews : ISO Dance Theatre in 'Time Out' at Royce Hall


In "Time Out," ISO Dance Theatre reassembles classic images from '80s dance in a quasi-nostalgic cavalcade.

Remember the high-intensity spotlights and billowing smoke of Twyla Tharp's "Fait Accompli" and "In the Upper Room"? They're here. So are the whimsical body masks of Mummenschanz, the sculptural Expressionism of the revived Triadisches Ballett, the partnering innovations of La La La Human Steps, the canopy seascape of Pilobolus' "Day Two"--plus gladiatorial-style sex warfare that might have come from nearly anyone.

Instantly familiar at its North American premiere over the weekend in Royce Hall, UCLA, "Time Out" represents a kind of Zeitgeist cartoon, with ISO reworking other artists' visions for maximum accessibility.

Sometimes there's a sense of Walter Mittyesque fantasy to these borrowings, as when Jamey Hampton tries on the gauze discarded by a "Thriller"-style monster. Sometimes, ISO seems to comment on its sources, as when Daniel Ezralow moons the audience from behind the Pilobolus sea-canopy.

Occasionally, the piece makes reference to Andrea De Carlo's original "Time Out" scenario, a 14-scene narrative about "an accidental journey in the fourth dimension." Thus time cycles are juxtaposed in a sequence where Ezralow is shadowed by dancers behind him--their movements the same as his but dilated--just as the undersea segments reflect De Carlo's notions of the surreal.

A blaring, apocalyptic jazz score by Ludovico Einaudi and an elaborate production designed by Anita Evenepoel and Maria Blaisse complete the aura of upscale overkill: ISO as "I'm So Overproduced." What's missing is both an individual perspective on most of the '80s references and even minimal choreographic interest.

Now featuring Sheila Lehner as well as its founders (Ezralow, Hampton, Ashley Roland and Morleigh Steinberg), ISO remains passionately devoted to displays of dance skill, theater technology and bare skin. But the movement ideas in "Time Out" stay so undeveloped that the piece has no momentum of its own--it has to be continually forced forward by the hard labor of its cast.

In contrast, the familiar "Night Thoughts" (on the same UCLA program) may be awfully grandiose in its religioso imagery--angelic women hovering in the air (on wires) above suffering, earthbound men. But at least it has a spectacular finale in which the gang-of-four uses aerial harnesses to create a vision of dancing freed from any gravitational limits.

Finally, the Ezralow-Hampton duet "Woomen" moves, as always, with the speed of thought though inspired manipulations of time, energy, gestural metaphor and special effects. If only "Time Out" were nostalgic for that kind of '80s dance experience. . . .

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