Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Dance Review: Fraulien Maria, Doug Elkins and Friends

Doug Elkins' Fraulien Maria Doug Elkins’ Fraulien Maria is an absolute joy.  Featuring exuberant, unbridled dancing and a soundtrack that everyone can sing along to, Elkins’ loving send-up of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "The Sound of Music" is a must-see for the Holiday season.

A man in a tuxedo takes the stage at Dance Theatre Workshop while the houselights are still up. He welcomes the audience and says that we are going to try an experiment.  He splits the audience into three sections, then instructs us all in the singing of, what else, "Do, a Deer". Instantly I am hooked, and from what I can see, so are those around me.  How rare is it that the audience is all grins before the show even begins?

Say Something 1From there Elkins takes off on a tender modern-dance re-make of the classic musical.  Each song is acted, mimed and danced in Elkins signature blend of pop and lock, breakdance, capoeria, and 90’s modern dance grooves.  Here his style is particularly effective, contrasting sharply with the original Northern European feel which everyone clearly remembers, booty-drops in incongruous places become a consistent joke.

But, his sense of humor goes beyond this easy one-liner and he finds ways to make the movement itself funny in clear short statements that make you laugh out loud.  In the nunnery, Elkins crafts a convent of nuns out of hoodie wearing dancers who all move in beautiful canon, clearly exemplifying the harmony of the original vocal score.  The canon becomes a double joke on the line "How do you catch a wave upon the sand?" when the nuns, joined hand to elbow, pass one of Elkins’ signature ‘waves’ through their linked arms.

Elkins has also gleaned some great comic acting from his troupe of fearless dancers.  Notable for their hilarious duet to "I have Courage" are Donnell Oakley and Meghan Merrill, two of Elkins three Maria’s.  They fight against one another, symbolizing opposite sides of Maria’s personality at this pivotal moment in the story.  Each woman’s dancing is full and fearless but their duet timing is the real draw of this dance.  Nearing the end of the exhausting section, Oakley sits in a disjointed pile next to the effervescent Merrill.  Merrill tips herself into a side-ways downward dog as Oakley crosses herself, dives between Merrill’s legs, bounces her shoulders off the backs of Merrill’s knees and flies off again, only to spring on to the next move.

The supporting cast and guest artists are all in on the joke and perform it with such commitment and energy, I wonder why we can’t do this (funny modern dance) more often.  Get to DTW to catch this show while it lasts.

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Official Dance Review by
Meghan Frederick
Performance: Fraulien Maria
Choreography:  Doug Elkins
Venue:  Dance Theater Workshop
Show Date:  December 17, 2009
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