Monday, February 6, 2023

Dance Review: ‘Last Meadow’….Go see it!

Miguel Gutierrez and The Powerful People -Photo by Eric McNatt ‘Last Meadow’, by Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, is perfectly wildly entertaining.

The group presents a challenging, fun, gender-bending, James-Dean-inspired trio at Dance Theater Workshop this week.  It is an evening filled with inspired dancing and the witty use of both text and music.

As the lights come up, Michelle Boulé appears seated in a chair, wearing a red jacket and jeans, seemingly dressed as James Dean.  She speaks almost incomprehensibly into a mike, before falling drunkenly to the floor.  I enjoy the confusion of listening as hard as I can; attempting to make sense of her words, but only catching snippets of meaning.  Boulé so fully embodies the character that, even in my confusion, I trust her to take me on this ride.  Then enters Tarek Halaby, dressed as a woman in a wig of curly brown hair and a long blue skirt; he moves with a strikingly authentic femininity.  The pair perform a duet at the edge of the stage, subtly introducing their characters to the audience using subtle and well-crafted body language as their dance vocabulary.  Eventually, Gutierrez joins the pair onstage, at which point the now-trio busts out a section full of dreamy arabesques and stretchy backbends.

Have Something to Say Join Today! One of my favorite parts begins with Boulé and Halaby acting out a scene in which they are the characters from a James Dean movie. Upon reaching the end of the scene, they immediately start again from the beginning.  This time, however, Gutierrez says their lines over-top of them, as if he had seen this movie a million times and can recite all of the lines of all the characters. When the scene begins for a third time, Gutierrez takes over Boulé’s voice completely, while she performs a slow solo; dancing in a downstage spotlight, seeming almost to be having an out-of-body experience.  Boulé rejoins the others, all three pick up scripts, and they begin to recite.  Gutierrez, with the mike in his mouth, reads everyone’s lines with them; the distorted sound lending a sinister feeling to the whole business… The intensity builds as the reading get faster, louder, and more frantic.  Finally, Gutierrez spits out the mike; the others ask him, “What’s your problem?” to which he responds, “I don’t know, but it’s gone now.”  Finding this to be an acceptable answer, the two join Gutierrez for a trio in which each move is announced before it is performed.  The anticipation of seeing what the move will be, after hearing the name, is intensely satisfying, especially with these three creative, beautiful dancers.

One more time, the cast recites their story; then, they strip down to their underwear, shedding their personas along with their clothes.  As pop music blares, the dancers are free, leaping and bounding through the space.  In an exhilarating moment, Gutierrez jumps into the audience, dripping sweat, and climbs up onto the arms of a chair.  When he looks like he will lose his balance, the audience reaches out to support him.  Using their support, he crosses over to the other side of the theater on the arms of the seats, runs back down to the stage, and executes a beautiful series of leaps, as if to say “I am free.”  With the freedom celebration over, the performers collect their clothes and exit the space as a new, younger version of the trio enters, performing even as the original trio bows and the audience leaves.  Brilliant!

‘Last Meadow’ creates a world that I don’t understand but excited to explore with these three amazing dancers.  Miguel Gutierrez is exceptionally creative and smart.  …Now while I am on my way to rent a James Dean movie, you go see this dance.

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iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by
Hope Davis 
Performance:  Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, ‘Last Meadow’
Choreography: Miguel Gutierrez
Venue:  Dance Theater Workshop (DTW), New York City
Performance Date:  Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

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