[Sidebar] May 24 - 31, 2001
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An eclectic collage

Tangled Tango is a creative tour de force

by Johnette Rodriguez

TANGLED TANGO. Featuring Everett Dance Theatre and the Eyesores Trio. At the Carriage House May 25 and 26.

[] If the term multi-media didn't already exist, it would have to be invented to describe the eclectic set of pieces presented by Everett Dance Theatre and friends last weekend at the Carriage House: two films, with live musical accompaniment, a fistful of satirical skits, an inspired tango, and a work which combined dance, live music, soliloquies, film and some masterful mechanical tricks.

To move through the sequence as the audience experienced it, there were two films by Laura Colella, Cuba and China, sandwiching a half-dozen sketches by Jeff Baluch and Marvin Novogrodski called Rice and Beans, the ethnicity of the foods bouncing comically off the countries surrounding them. Colella, an indie filmmaker who was one of eight Directing Fellows at the Sundance Institute last summer, collaborated with composer and accordion player Alec Redfearn to create two very memorable shorts.

The first film gives us many images of Havana's run-down buildings and tight close-ups on the faces of Cubans, young and old, musicians and farmers. The most interesting segment is a handkerchief dance between a woman and a man (or several men, in sequence) that was part sexual come-on and part competition, though the outcome of either is unclear. The second film begins with fuzzy close-ups of fat white caterpillars, arching upwards and perhaps beginning their mating dance. Next are snippets of a Chinese street scene with an endearing song by two little girls, a segment at the Chinese opera, and then a long section of thousands of birds flocking and soaring against a white background.

The technique of live music over dialogue in a foreign tongue is very effective, keeping the viewer focussed on expression, gesture, and mood. The pairing of music to the soaring and dashing birds in the last part of China is absolutely mesmerizing.

In between these visual enthrallments comes a verbal challenge: What do Baluch's and Novogrodski's skits have to do with one another? What does each mean unto itself? Quotes are quoted, epithets are flung, and platitudes are uttered, most in self-mocking tones. Four concern themselves with employer-employee situations, exaggerations of feelings that are seldom expressed: telling your boss you've only eaten rice and beans for two weeks, only to have him say that such foods are actually quite nutritious; quitting after one day's work but coming back for lunch on the second because, after all, it's a decent restaurant.

The most extreme of these situations is a birthday party clown telling a horror story to a bunch of little kids, scaring the wits out of them and being canned by his boss, who's wearing a red animal suit, minus its head. Baluch and Novogrodski are often hilarious, and both are adept at varying the timber of their voices to create distinct characters.

The title piece of Everett's program is Tangled Tango, choreographed by Rachael Jungels, in collaboration with Aaron Jungels, and danced by this ever-inventive sister/ brother duo to the lush tango music of the Eyesores, in which Redfearn's accordion is joined by Margie Wienk's double bass and Laura Gully's violin. This swooping collage of tangles and tangos has many Everett signatures: the imaginative partnering-everything but upside-down and backwards, but, hey . . . maybe that was in there, too; the strong lifts, especially as Rachael holds Aaron splay-legged in a final whirl; the slides along the floor, one dancer pulling another; the running and leaping in synch.

Rachael has distilled the essence of Everett's line, where bodies meld and movement flows from one dancer's arms or legs or head or back onto the other's. This tango feels like a neverending chain of turns, as she slips backwards, head down, under his arm or he under hers; as she holds onto his back, knees tucked, and they soar in a circle; as she flips over his shoulder and down onto the floor, where he holds her hand and spins her. The urgent push of this dance, both physically and emotionally, takes your breath away.

The last piece, a family-and-friends collaboration, is called Christine's Garden, referring to the rock garden behind the Carriage House that is being designed and built by Aaron Jungels in honor of his grandmother Christine Mullowney, here portrayed by 90-year-old Rose Guiliano. Once again accompanied by the Eyesores, three young performers spin tops and tell tales (Mullowney's great-grandchildren Carmine, Grace, and Matthew Bevilacqua, all elementary-school age). Home movies from 1947, taken by Mullowney of her family in Ireland with her young daughters Dorothy (Jungels) and Barbara, are projected onto a mullioned window that hangs in an old-fashioned garden (designed by Jane Case, with statuary by Guiliano). And Marvin Novogrodski plays a man who talks to (and ultimately tangos with) his television.

Aaron Jungels wrote, directed, and designed this piece, which definitely emphasizes the "theatre" part of Everett Dance Theatre. His nephew Carmine is particularly effective in his short, home-made rap and in his monologues about his autistic cousin, who loves to spin things. Jungels has engineered giant tops which Matthew and Carmine guide around a small, circus-type ring and, along with Joseph Seay, two fountains in the garden. One is a mesh screen onto which a film image of Mullowney is projected, and as the water begins to pour down the screen into an opening in the floor, we are reminded of her words: "If I had all the tears I ever cried, it would be more than a fountain, it would be a waterfall." It's a beautiful, evocative finale to the evening.

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