Columbus Dance Theatre’s Fisher Theater
November 13, 2009
By Steve Sucato
The power of self-image and how it can define a human being from the inside out, was the overriding theme of Anthro(pop)ology II presented by Columbus, Ohio-based dance troupes Anatomical Scenario Movement Theatre, TUPACO Dance, and cocoloupedance.
The three troupes presented very different approaches to the theme, but all used a mixture of theater and dance.
The program opened with cocoloupedance’s “click here for slideshow 6-8 character limit”.
Choreographed, conceived, and performed by artistic director CoCo Lupe (the work’s “old prophetess”) and dancers Eric Falck, Jeff Fouch and Michael J, Morris, the multi-media work blended the self-absorbed poetry of Lupe in the form of wall postings on her Facebook page which she posted live sitting at a laptop computer at the front of the stage with a mix of partially improvised contemporary ballet movement and social dancing.
As Lupe sat at her laptop spilling her soul (her computer screen projected onto a larger screen for the theater audience to see) and taking and uploading photos and video of the dancers as they performed, each of the three dancers took turns in solos that ranged from flamboyant to introspective.
Set to a myriad of songs from Dead or Alive’s “My heart goes bang” to Lady Gaga’s “I like it rough”, the peculiarly constructed dance work provided some of the best dancing the program had to offer. Beneath an aloof veneer, the work harbored an underlying cry for attention and acceptance that surfaced in the work’s latter sections and climaxed during the final section danced to Chris Garneau’s heartfelt “The leaving song”, which left Lupe visibly misty-eyed.
Next up was TUPACO Dance’s “Bring out your big balls”. Choreographed by artistic director Jessica Tupa, the lighthearted and clichéd dance work despite its title lacked the cojones of the other two works on the program in both content and execution.
The piece for six dancers used the well-worn motif of feminine self image and the internal and external societal pressures for woman to be skinny and beautiful. Tupa’s somewhat student-level choreography had the performers playing with exercise balls and engaging in aerobic exercises that held little substantive dancing to speak of. The work’s lone redeeming quality turned out to be its humor which featured oneupmanship competitions between dancers and a series of phony commercials touting outrageous weight loss and beauty enhancement products for women.
The final work on the program was perhaps its most disturbing and provocative.
Anna Sullivan’s “Tantric Tantrums” ( The Melodrama), was a mix of sex, abuse, and warped fantasy that challenged audience sensibilities and sent pulses racing.
“Tantric Tantrums” told of an emotionally abused young girl who carried the effects of that abuse into in her adult life. The work began with Sullivan as the little girl, playing with Barbi dolls, smearing lipstick on her face and body and recalling unhappy episodes with her parents.
The action then shifted to Sullivan’s character transferring those feelings of abuse to four female dancers who portrayed life size versions of the semi-nude Barbi dolls. Sullivan’s character threw tantrums and acted out in a way exhibiting perhaps the same abusive behavior on the dolls as she had been subjected to by her parents. She verbally scolded them, pretended to lock them in a closet and denied their pleas to use the bathroom.
Sullivan’s animated choreography for the section focused mainly on making the dancers appear doll-like in their movements and positioning.
Fast forward 15 years and now the little girl is a grown woman and has slipped into a life of depravity. The work asserts a link between the girl’s dysfunctional past and her now tainted emotional state where she equates abusive behavior with love.
Danced to a surreal soundscape of music, noise, and the internal dialog of the woman describing a lesbian sexual encounter at a night club, the section featured two dancers partially simulating the encounter by bending and folding into each other in soft slow movements.
While “Tantric Tantrums” did not break any new ground thematically or choreographically, Sullivan also did not play it safe with the work. It’s erotic and highly charged depictions of the effects of emotional abuse proved haunting.
Copyright Steve Sucato