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ReVue: A Little Twisted Vaudeville and Sidra Bell Dance New York

April 5, 2012

Jonathon Campbell in ReVue, Sidra Bell Dance New York Photo by Jubal Battisti

You enter a theater that is dark and foggy, a single spotlight on a nude woman with incredible six inch eyelashes seated on the floor. She is macabre and fascinating, she does not move except to slightly alter her position, she seems so venerable. For Sidra Bell establishes a feeling or ambience of sort, that is established the moment you enter the theater.

Sidra Bell Dance New York’s revival of the critically acclaimed Revue, first premiered in Pittsburgh last year, consists of thirteen vignettes that paint a world that is somewhat dark, a little macabre but filled with both expectations and a humor that borders on the sarcastic.

Jonathan Campbell enters stage left, he waves expectantly to the audience and with a wickedly sinister smile enhanced by bright red lipstick and batting his long extended eyelashes he starts to move, he is followed by a spotlight, as if he is the ring master or a cause célèbre, insisting on attention and everyone’s focus. His constant batting of his eyes and his insincere smile make him seem vapid and shallow as he keeps motioning to the audience to come to him, join his world. He follows this with movements that are a combination of a parody of ballet and marionette like, jerky and angular.

Alexandra Johnson in ReVue, Sidra Bell Dance New York Photo by Jubal Battisti

Four other dancers join him on stage, all in black attire, each it’s on creation. Alexandra Johnson, wearing a black leather tutu starts to strut, conquering the stage with a regal toss of her head, her legs, seemingly independent of her body, extends in the air. She gave a dazzling solo of virtuosity and poise.

Grief Point, a haunting solo given by Austin Diaz, was one of many highlights of the evening. First premiered in Stuttgart, Germany and won first place for choreography at the 15th Annual Internationales Solo-Tanz-Theater Festival it is a hallmark of Ms. Bells deconstructionist approach to choreography.

Austin Diaz in Grief point from ReVue, Sidra Bell Dance New York Photo by Jubal Battisti

Mr. Diaz, encompassed in a pool of light walks slowly while holding an umbrella over his head, the lights fade only to find him in another spot on the stage, his movement already begun, his intensity beautiful. There is a passionate desperation to Grief Point and I have written before that it is a “work of profound respect”.

Beautiful Beast is a parody of dolls or perhaps excessive femininity; one cannot tell the gender of anyone, all with bright red lips, Elizabethan ruffled collars and short black wigs. The dancers are constantly acting as if they are fixing their faces, applying make-up and using their fingers to stretch their smiles excessively wide, then peer into the audience resembling only what can be said to be crazed hookers!

Jonathon Campbell, who reappears time after time, often wearing the most amazing hats, my favorite continually shifts between a red top hat or some millinery concoction of feathers, toile and a small white bird. The performers appear in a dizzying array of fascinating costumes throughout the performances. Ms. Bell’s uses costume and make-up to enhance her work. It works hand in hand with the movement that creates a startling visualization, a hybrid of burlesque and vaudeville updated for the 21st Century and You-tube.

Lavinia Anna Maria Vago in ReVue, Sidra Bell Dance New York Photo by Jubal Battisti

Lavinia Anna Maria Vago is a fascinating performer, grabbing our attention each time on stage. She is long limbed and supple and moves with a lyrical strength that is applauded. Fana Fraser must be commended on her performance, rare is such a talent, her technique and stage person blended seamlessly with Ms. Bell’s choreography creating a character that was believable and vibrant.

Ms. Bell’s, whose work has been set on Ballet Austin, Sacramento Ballet and Ailey II, has combined gender ambiguity, deconstructed ideas, high drama and couture fashion to give voice to her world. A world of dazzling possibilities!

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