IMPRESSIONS: Armitage Gone! Dance's "Halloween Unleashed: Dancing Bones, Tasting Darkness and the Skeleton Within" at LA MAMA
October 27, 2017
Venue: LA MAMA Experimental Theatre Club
Artistic Director/Choreographer: Karole Armitage
Resident Costume Designer: Peter Speliopoulos / Additional Design: Simone Duff, Jon Can Coskunses, Alba Clemente, Christian Lacroix
Resident Lighting Designer: Clifton Taylor
Music: DNA, Theoretical Girls, Wyclef Jean, David Lang, Marilyn Manson, Gioacchino Rossini, Fats Waller, commissioned music by Terry Dame
The Company: Edgar Clauss, Ahmaud Culver, Megumi Eda, Sierra French, Yusaku Komari, Cristian Laverde-Koenig
What’s a grown ghoul to do for some Halloween fun, particularly if she turns into a pumpkin soon after midnight? The choreographer and director of Armitage Gone! Dance, Karole Armitage (in the 90’s, hailed as the Punk Ballerina — love that moniker) and her skillful gang of artistic collaborators have provided the answer — a surreal, theatrical amuse bouche to inspire all manner of trick-or-treaters. HALLOWEEN UNLEASHED: DANCING BONES, TASTING DARKNESS AND THE SKELETON WITHIN, a 55-minute spectral revue, caters to those who care to embark on a night of mischief, as well as those preparing to nestle all snug in their crypts.
An installation of glowing, designer Jack-O-Lanterns eerily floating above our heads, complemented by a small sweep of candlelight against the back stage wall, offers a bewitching setting for an evening of spooky hijinks. Characters inspired by Haitian Carnival, Walt Disney, Ray Bradbury, vaudeville, drag, tango, neoclassical ballet, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes, Frank Baum’s Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, and tales from cultures around the globe are brilliantly inhabited by Armitage’s dancers. They dart from costume to costume, role to role, and genre to genre with multiple entrances and exits, as if their efforts are mere child’s play.
Beware, and don’t be fooled, trick-or-treaters. HALLOWEEN UNLEASHED is serious play with dedicated players, and that’s the best kind.
What is more bizarre: a tomato-colored, Christian Lacroix tutu on a hairy-legged, platform-heeled, drag zombie or a full-body-sized owl’s head whose huge eyes stare creepily as it spins 360 degrees, perhaps searching for its body? What is more whimsical: a faceless witch, all pointed-hat, hair, and jazzy legs for days, or a chorus of skeletons who relish in removing and exchanging their bones?
A ghost (Megumi Eda) with a long gray braid beguiles us with her pliable limbs and luxurious arching back, eventually transforming the elegant, drag ballerina (Ahmoud Culver) from an assured, classical giant to undead jelly. Stepping out of The Twilight Zone, a distressed gentleman in black (Cristian Laverde-Koenig) is taken aback upon discovering he actually has bones, so he dislodges them one-by-one until he inevitably collapses.
What about the jaunty, herky-jerky, cracking, and popping of the skeletal marionettes and their bony xylophone? Armitage, her dancers, composer Terry Dame, and costume designer Peter Speliopoulos perfectly capture the cartoon quirkiness of Walt Disney’s1929 animation to Carl Stalling’s music Silly Symphony: The Skeleton Dance.
So many treats. So many tricks. And, no CGI. Oh, so quickly they float by.
Alas my dear ghouls, boos, and all the rest of you phantasms and banshees out there, I can’t say enough about Armitage’s dabble in devilish revelry. Perhaps she might consider unleashing more creative wizardry next Halloween?
A ghoul can dream, can’t she?