“Holding Patterns” at the Southern—A view


by John Munger | 8/5/09 • This is the third year in a row that Monica Rodero and Danial Schuchart of Milwaukee have appeared on the Minnesota Fringe Festival. God bless the lottery. We here in the Twin Cities are blessed with their gentle and inviting artistry.

Both are members of Wild Space Dance Company in Milwaukee, sort of the Zenon of that city in the sense that it is a major company with a fair-sized budget and a presence well beyond its own civic borders. They dance for others as well, and do their own work, such as this show.

going through the movements is the blog of john munger, one of seven bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival for the daily planet.

This is very human work. They are post-modern in the sense that they dance with a relaxed and natural quality rather than displaying the sort of dance that is sometimes called “techniquey.” There isn’t the hard and clearly defined edge of traditional ballet, classical modern, jazz or serious folkdance. Instead there is movement so effortless, so natural, so in keeping with the immediate context and so exquisitely chosen that one might be tempted to think “That’s like me, that’s how I feel, that’s something I could do, I feel and understand this.”

But not so fast. This is actually virtuosic stuff. The shared breath and impulses, sometimes in the difficult world of silence, are flawless. Their arms and gestures are evocative, but rarely mimetic. The whole body is involved even when only the arms or heads or hands carry the focus of the message. They are masters of what is called “floor-work,” meaning that they have their weight off their feet and are not doing leggy “steps.”

And now let me go back and contradict myself. I said above that they don’t have a hard and clearly defined edge. Now let’s dig deeper. Actually they really do have clearly defined choices, movements and tones. The beauty of their artistry is that they can use this precision of choice and empathy and performance without making a big damn deal about it. This is subtle and exquisite work.

What’s especially wonderful is that they can adjust quickly, can modify their work as they go along, can do some sections improvisationally, and can do all that without losing the clarity and honesty of their defined intent and execution. That’s the product of thousands of hours of professional work and thousands of hours of developing their shared empathy as a duet.

Gentle, understated, and non-flashy as it may be, this is high class dance.

Come on somebody, pay more for a ticket, lay a gift on them, or something. America doesn’t support high-class dance at a living wage level the way it obscenely supports tabloid journalism, Hostess (twinkies) Inc., General Motors, Rep. Michelle Bachman, water-parks, porn, stupid quick fashions like “Jellies” (remember those?) or Starbucks.

Special thanks to Kimberly Lesik, now of Minneapolis, who made it a trio and did flawless duty as a needed third presence from time to time.

I would like to mention two pieces.

“If I Talk This Quietly Can You Hear Me” is actually choreographed by Debra Lowen, the Artistic Director of Wild Space, but it clearly draws on knowledge of the strengths and methods that Rodaro/Schuchart bring to their own work. This piece begins as a bar-stool encounter. “Haven’t we met before?” It segues patiently into an extended flirtation, seduction and all the rest. There is a wealth of humorous, poignant, disturbing, (and ten other adjectives) human interaction in this delicious work.

I have to digress for a moment and say that “Fish Bowl Suite” deviated in several ways from their strong suits. God bless reaching into new directions. But this one doesn’t work yet.

Finally, “Prelude to the Maestro,” a solo for Dan, has a back story that I gleaned in conversation. Apparently there was a faculty member at UWI … and so forth and so on. Fun to know but what really matters is that this is one of the two wildest and craziest wonderful bits of madness I’ve seen yet in the dance shows on this Fringe. (The other is Sharon Varosh’s “Hippo: The Ballet” on Third Rabbit’s “My Body Made Me Do This.”)

This solo by Dan has now become my iconic vision for how to use the Blue Danube Waltz in unexpected ways. In my mind it now supplants the landing of the spaceship at the orbital station in “2001, A Space Odyssey.”

I recommend this show very very highly, even with the lapse at the goldfish bowl. They have two performances left: tonight (Wednesday) at 10:00pm at The Southern and Saturday also at 10:00. Plus they will do a light-hearted (sort of) excerpt as guest artists on the Third Rabbit Show, “My Body Made Me Do This,” at 8:30 tonight (Wednesday) at The Ritz. Full disclosure for a moment: the Third Rabbit show is mine, but I didn’t choreograph “Hippo” and I’ve given Monica and Danial five minutes to do with as they wish.

Before closing I would like to cut-paste-quote my “audience review on the Fringe website (www,fringefestival.org). I waxed poetic, and I’d like to put these words in a second place.

“You have never seen a more natural and humane duet couple in a dance show. They move honestly and easily, like we all would move if we were dancers and we were true and faithful children of whatever God there may be. They move like Adam and Eve before the apple, like what human beings were like when the universe was created and no-one had yet invented “Dancing With The Stars” or strip-mall competition schools just to make a living.”

See this show.

NOTE: This blog does not reflect the opinions or policies of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, Dance/USA, nor anyone other than the author. These are purely and utterly my own observations and views.

John Munger (jrmdance@aol.com) has been performing, teaching, choreographing, researching and writing about dance for about 40 years. He teaches at Zenon, day-jobs for Dance/USA, and still hasn’t gotten much of it right.

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