DANCE REVIEW : Heidi Duckler Serves Up 'Church of Food'

Heidi Duckler, the reigning queen of L.A. site-specific dance-performance, is one choreographer who really cooks.

Literally, that's what she did while the dancers danced and the phallic foodstuffs flew on the stage of the Unitarian Community Church in Santa Monica, during a performance Wednesday of Collage Dance Theatre's whimsical and trenchant "Church of Food."

Taking her cue from earlier feminism's focus on women's ritual and giving it a deft, satirical twist for the jaded '90s, Duckler makes dances that explore such traditionally female activities as doing the laundry.

In this work, she goes a step further than in her previous outings: intermingling the gestural vocabularies of housework, evangelical religion, domestic relationships and passion and spicing the mix with a Lucille Ball-like humor.

Presented in an episodic format that mocked the progression of a church service (opening hymn, reading, communion, etc.), "Church of Food" included athletic dances interspersed with video, voiceovers and other non-dance interpolations.

Highlights included a Strindbergian imbroglio pas de deux complete with TV dinner trays (ably danced by Robert Allen and Laura Ozer and Duckler's "sermon"--in which the distinguished choreographer ascended the pulpit to chomp, with a surfeit of thespian gusto, on a large carrot.

Best of all was a duet by Debi Albeyta and Robert Allen that featured the two dancers moving in sensual harmony as each was biting onto the opposite end of the same loaf of bread.

Choreographed by Duckler, "Church of Food" is the collaborative creation of Duckler, her sister Merridawn Duckler and Jerilyn Tabor of the French Culinary Institute. Bon appetit!

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