AWKWARD MAGIC: ADF plays at Motorco, through July 1

Gregory Dolbashian in Awkward Magic: Scene 1: Nailed It. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Gregory Dolbashian in Awkward Magic: Scene 1: Nailed It. At ADF  at Motorco, 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

In recent years, the American Dance Festival, like Duke Performances, has increased the number and type of venues in which it presents work. One of the less formal of these is Motorco music hall, on the hopping corner of Rigsbee Avenue and West Geer Street, in the heart of Durham’s nightlife zone. The stage is small, the room is small, and the bar is open, making for a convivial situation, suitable for lighter-hearted, even zany, dance-theater. A show called Awkward Magic opened there on the 27th, and will run (2 shows/night) through Wed., July 1. It features skits by Gregory Dolbashian, Jordan Isadore and Deborah Lohse, who are joined in some of the 10 short pieces by several other dancers.

"Within Between"; Maggie Cloud, Simon Courchel, Burr Johnson and Stuart Singer / John Jasperse. From ADF 2014.

Within Between: Maggie Cloud, Simon Courchel, Burr Johnson and Stuart Singer / choreography by John Jasperse. From ADF 2014, photo courtesy the artist.

I need to say right up front that, generally, I am not a fan of stand-up comedy, or improv, and tend to resent demands for audience participation. I’m not much on art about art (even John Jasperse’ fabulous, highly-styled work “Within Between” at ADF 2014 , with its incredibly inventive movement sequences, lost me when it dropped the drama of dance-making to close with the drearier aspects of the enterprise). I’m also far removed from the rhythms of television, and even further from the cult of celebrity for the its own sake. I fear I lack expertise in frivolity. I absolutely hate it when people call themselves “bitches.” These facts make me a less-than-ideal audience for Awkward Magic.

Nonetheless, I can enjoy a little pointed mockery of the dance world, show business and its creatures.

Although some of the skits made me cringe, I did get real laughs out of “TruDee” and her carryings on, especially her send-up of Merce Cunningham and John Cage and their love of randomness. In “TruDee: Reaching Out” Deborah Lohse, in her TruDee persona, snags an audience member for participation (I was not convinced he wasn’t a plant) in a series of actions made random by shuffling cards describing the action and choosing them randomly (I was not convinced of the randomness, either). It was a cute game, and obviously played well to a dance-informed crowd.

Awkward Magic's Deborah Lohse in character as TruDee. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Awkward Magic’s Deborah Lohse in be-sequined character as TruDee. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

The inside-joke aspect of all the segments was at once a strength and a weakness. An ADF crowd would tend to “get it” whereas a different crowd–say, one that adored Riverdance–might be mostly mystified and then offended.  It is one thing to turn the mockery on oneself, as Gregory Dolbashian does in his three skits, but Jordan Isadore’s “Thousands Place: Jody Sawyer Takes a Jazz Class” released a whiff of meanness. Set to music from Riverdance, Isadore and two other dancers (wearing white tennis-y clothes and keds) performed a mockery of Irish dancing that seemed, to my eye, lacking in the essential empathy that makes really good comedy.

Bitches 4 Ever. One of the more dancerly segments of Awkward Magic's act performed at Motorco. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Bitches 4 Ever. One of the more dancerly segments of Awkward Magic’s act performed at Motorco. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Prancing in The Showroom with ponydance: ADF @ Motorco

ponydance in the grappling stage of their How Did It All Go Right? At Motorco, 7/17/13. Photo: Grant Halverson, courtesy ADF.

ponydance in the grappling stage of their How Did It All Go Right? At Motorco, 7/17/13. Photo: Grant Halverson, courtesy ADF.

Comedy dance theater is a rare thing. Possibly it is unique to the Irish company ponydance, currently performing at the American Dance Festival–but not in a theater. Instead, the ebullient four-member company dances and prances, slithers and slides on the concrete floor in front of the bar, with no real separation between performers and audience, in the Showroom side of Motorco Music Hall in Durham’s hopping DIY district. Motorco is a place one expects to have fun, and not bother one’s head with cruel facts or baffling philosophy. With ponydance cavorting and joking, much fun is had–and the only lingering question is the same as the dance’s title: How Did It All Go Right?  (I think the answer is, sass and smarts.) The program (just under an hour) repeats through Sunday, July 21. As of this writing, there were a few tickets left for the Sunday performances only.

ponydance in their How Did It All Go Right?  At Motorco, 7/17/13. Photo: Grant Halverson, courtesy ADF.

Leonie McDonagh and Neil Hainsworth of ponydance in their How Did It All Go Right? At Motorco, 7/17/13. Photo: Grant Halverson, courtesy ADF.

The show opens with a good-humored mockery of every long-winded stage introduction you’ve ever heard, given by a pixie-faced dancer with fabulously curvaceous anatomy. Paula O’Reilly–in a different dress, as Drama Queen–will soon join, or I should say, interrupt, company artistic director Leonie McDonagh and dancer Neil Hainsworth in their pick-up dance of mutual attraction. Danced in a bar, set in a pub–what other song could they begin with but “Sexual Healing?” Combining comedy, narrative dramatics derived from life’s favorite drama–sexual connection–with audience teasing, and  fresh acrobatic dancing,  How Did It All Go Right? is a complete hoot.

Critic Roy C. Dicks got snagged in the audience participation games. Sitting next to him, I got nothing but the costume Leonie McDonagh had been wearing. At Motorco, 7/17/13. Photo: Grant Halverson, courtesy ADF.

Critic Roy C. Dicks got snagged in the audience participation games. Sitting next to him, I got nothing but the costume Leonie McDonagh had been wearing. At Motorco, 7/17/13. Photo: Grant Halverson, courtesy ADF.

The basic story is augmented by the post-post-modern conversion of the Drama Queen to show director, chiding and bossing the sleek McDonagh, and reminding us that this is an art event, not merely another evening down at the pub. The troupe also makes a great deal of use of the audience, getting very close to those in the front row–grabbing their hands, toppling into their laps, sweeping one lucky person up to twirl around the floor. The shenanigans continue til closing time, when the long-suffering bartender gets his moment. Jetting out from behind the bar in leopard print boxers and some foxy gladiator shoes, he puts Irish dance/disco moves on “She’s A Lady,”  and lashes out some stunning fouettés  before leaping onto the bar and shakin’ his booty while the other three dancers do a back-up routine wearing similar gear. I was laughing so hard I could barely hear the Drama Queen reprise her announcer role: “You have been wonderful. We have been wonderful.” They took their bows accompanied by Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual.” With ponydance, it’s clearly not unusual to have fun with anyone. Perfect.

Duane Watters in the flashy finale of ponydance's How Did It All Go Right? At Motorco, 7/17/13. Photo: Grant Halverson, courtesy ADF.

Duane Watters in the flashy finale of ponydance’s How Did It All Go Right? At Motorco, 7/17/13. Photo: Grant Halverson, courtesy ADF.

Motorco band

Ocracoke Observer

Community newspaper of Ocracoke, NC

Artist Soapbox

Original audio fiction + a podcast about creative process

David Cecelski

New writing, collected essays, latest discoveries

Piedmont Trails

Genealogy and History in North Carolina and Beyond

Piedmont Laureate

Promoting awareness and heightened appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont Region

Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" -- Director's Blog

a countdown to the next performance, March 28-31, 2019

North Carolina Preservation Consortium

Preserving tangible and intangible heritage of enduring value

The Orange County Citizen

• Proudly Serving Orange County North Carolina Since 2018 •

Bamboo Wind

Video Poems, Dance, Sculpture & Photography

mhdekm

A topnotch WordPress.com site

peter harris, tapestryweaver

TAPestry And DESIgn

Backstrap Weaving

My weaving , my indigenous teachers, my inspiration, tutorials and more........

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Not At Home In It

collections/connections

inkled pink

warp, weave, be happy!

Peggy Osterkamp's Weaving Blog

"Weaving should be fun!"

SHUTTLE WORKS STUDIO

Studio Life of a Weaver, Spinner, Dyer

This Day in North Carolina History

The people and places of the Tar Heel state day by day.

Linda Frye Burnham

Writer and poet

%d bloggers like this: