Ballet Hispanico, Photo: Paula Lobo
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IMPRESSIONS OF Faye Driscoll and Dancers

IMPRESSIONS OF Faye Driscoll and Dancers
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
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Published on January 7, 2010

Faye Driscoll and Dancers at The University Settlement - December 19. 2009

837 Venice Boulevard and (a sneak peak of) There is so much mad in me-

Choreography: Faye Driscoll in collaboration with the performers
Performers: Michael Helland, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Nikki Zialcita, Lindsay Clark, Lilly Gold, Jennie MaryTai Liu, Tony Orrico, Jacob Slominski, Adaku Utah, Jesse Zaritt and
Set: Sarah Walsh
Costumes: Normandy Sherwood
Music: Jacno, New Order, and Phillip Glass


It was a short freaky "slice of life" and I was caught up in the atmosphere. I wanted to see how (and if) these three would grow up, or kill each other eventually.
© Christine Jowers 2009

In her trio 837 Venice Boulevard, originally created in 2008, Faye Driscoll reminds us of what it is to be an awkward adolescent-- experimenting with identity, sexuality, and friendship, and feeling desperately insecure when the experiments don’t pan out. Driscoll conjures the heightened emotion and confusion of this chaotic time by sharing the verbal and physical exploits of a triangle of distinct of characters: Celia, the lanky, wan, no make- up wearing, bohemian “ish” gal in odd mismatched colors; Michael, the expressive-faced boy with matted- down black hair and huge eyes (like Liza, as Sally Bowles in Cabaret)-because he makes them up that way; and Nikki, a petite and springy Asian cartoon -like gal with about, like, oh my god, a jillion personalities bursting out of her skin.

The evening begins --in what appears to be Celia’s imagination-- with our pale heroine shuffling forward and back on her feet and boxing furiously at the air while chanting, with the oddest lucidity, “living in New York...and doing fine...finding a hairy gross secret on my shoulder... throwing it up and finding horses, care-bears and truth.” Then impatiently she pleads, “ I am waiting for rescue, waiting the show to begin, Hurry Up!”

A few seconds later, from behind an upstage red curtain --uproarious laughter. Enter Michael in short shorts with Nikki virtually hidden behind him--his puppeteer. She makes him strut forward towards the audience, manipulating his every gesture. She poses him suggestively and shouts from mockingly from behind, “ I am fierce...I got a great bod!” Finally, she thrusts her fist forward through his open legs. Her arm then becomes part of his anatomy- a huge erect penis. To be more specific, her arm becomes a huge erect puppet penis with a talking head that welcomes everyone to the show and then asks for a peanut butter sandwich. (I am in a bizarre teen dream and I hear raging hormones.)

I never knew a Michael, Nikki or Celia, but because they are so vividly portrayed in their surreal scenarios, I somehow feel that I grew up with them. I can taste their angst and perplexity. As Nikki manipulates Michael, I can identify with feeling pushed around by my body and emotions, and my friends. I understand their upheaval. Much of the partnering choreography in 837... reflects the idea of being a puppet, being maneuvered and out of control. Michael’s entrance is an example. Also, later in the piece, both Michael and Nikki, grabbing on to each side of Celia’s body, orchestrate her gestures so they can argue and jab at each other through her.

There are many special moments in this work. One is when Nikki solos and reveals her multiple personalities through movement and text. Nikki is beautifully clear and facile as she bounces like an elastic super ball: from side splitting martial artist with nun-chucks flying, to a juggler; from a little girl, to a growing flower, to a slutty nymphet, and, onto to a samurai committing seppuku. She is, a bit of a narcissist, committed to all her roles, because she looks so good, but, “Who am I and which of these crazy roles shall I wear today,” seems to be her question. Personally I am too overwhelmed by her boisterous energy to answer. Teens can do that to you.

As Nikki takes a bow ending her “multiple” masterpiece, a door opens backstage right and Michael and Celia hobble out on to the main floor falling over each other as if they have been smoking pot in the bathroom or bedroom. Set designer Sarah Walsh has created “almost” hidden enclaves that resemble a bathroom/bedroom and a kitchen located backstage right and left. Intriguing--we can see some details of these other rooms, but not very well. It gives the whole space the feeling of being a large house and the main floor of The University Settlement the sense of being, not an ordinary theater space, but a family room, where the action happens.

There is fun child-play, as when the trio runs behind the upstage curtains, hiding their bodies away from us and only letting us see their faces. We laugh as their heads float up and down in the separations of the fabric--like disconnected yo -yos. They emerge from the curtain as super-heroes with capes streaming off their backs in triumph. There are the awful beginnings of more adult play when insensitivity and cruelty come to fore—the kind of insensitivity that zeros in on the most fragile aspect of a friends’ personality and exploits it. At one point skinny Celia becomes relentless and taunts her friends. She yells at Michael to wash off his mascara and “grow the fuck up”, and calls Nikki a cockroach because of her Philippine immigrant background. Harsh. They dump her in the garbage.

I was disappointed that the piece had to end. It was a short freaky “slice of life” and I was caught up in the atmosphere. I wanted to see how (and if) these three would grow up, or kill each other eventually.

I wonder how Celia, Michael, and Nikki will be at thirty, forty, fifty? Interesting enough to choreograph? I am waiting for a dance piece about middle and old age angst and chaos.

There is so much mad in me (great title) will appear in full at Dance Theater Workshop from March 31st to April 3rd. On December 19th what I saw were wonderfully diverse, attractive and present performers, (Driscoll is blessed to work with talented interesting people and vice -versa), lots of emotional shifts, people climbing up walls, and on each other, and a Tyra Banks Talk Show “talk out” becoming a wild dance party. There was lots of energy and sound, and not much space to rest in between. I am excited to see what will come of it all in the spring.
The Dance Enthusiast

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