Pilobolus and its offshoots have conditioned American audiences to the idea of juggling construed as dance. However, young American performer Michael Moschen makes the physical (and particularly aerial) manipulation of objects into a uniquely profound and poetic form of movement theater: New Vaudeville raised to the sanctity of temple dancing.
An unwieldy assortment of location, domestic and theatrical footage makes a lumpy but fascinating introduction to Moschen on PBS’ “Dance in America” series tonight at 9 on Channels 15 and 24, at 10 on Channel 28, and Saturday at 9 on Channel 50.
Director Skip Blumberg begins the program with spaceballs: juggling depicted as a cosmic process. Soon he’s using whimsical tricks of scale and various New York environments to illustrate the importance of what Moschen calls “discovery and play” in his art.
Before we know it, however, Blumberg switches from an invigorating, essentially collaborative approach (mixed with a little documentary material) to merely recording Moschen onstage as he juggles inside a giant triangle. For all Moschen’s brilliant control, this sequence grows visually static--though later he and Blumberg effectively use large, rigid sculptural units that magically seem to become pliant and even alive when rotated. Moschen designed these units with sculptor John Kahn.
Perhaps the most memorable segment involves crystal globes, with Moschen working at a level of flawless purity bathed both in golden light and the warm tonal washes of music by David Van Tieghem..
Silver hoops also represent a major motif in the program--the focus of several wondrous Moschen solos as well as a relatively ineffectual new trio he co-choreographed with Janis Brenner for Brenner, John-Mario Sevilla and Edward Akio Taketa.