locust's "Mockumentary" Rocks <font size=2>by Anne</font> Oct 20, 2006
by Tania Kupczak
Choreographer Amy O'Neal and costume designer Macks Leger share an artistic credo: Both seemingly will try anything as long as the result looks fabulous. In "mockumentary," O'Neal, composer/co-director Zeke Keeble, and a talented ensemble of dancers and collaborators create a work that is eclectic, funky, and occasionally incomprehensible, but that invariably looks fabulous. If you care about modern dance, you shouldn't miss it.
"Mockumentary" lacks the high concept of O'Neal's and Keeble's previous work, "convenience," but in many ways is the more enjoyable for it. In "mockumentary," O'Neal seems relaxed, as though she had nothing to prove. Consequently, "mockumentary" often feels more like a dance party at a private club than a conventional performance, right down to the front-row sofas on which the dancers recline and relax when not performing. And O'Neal and Keeble do know how to throw a great party.
"Mockumentary" opens two weeks after Constanza Macras' "Back to the Present" played at On the Boards and comparisons between the two works are inevitable. O'Neal admires Macras' work and the two share some stylistic similarities. Both combine dance, video, live music, and an MTV-inspired esthetic in new and exciting ways. Macras works with a larger cast, uses traditional theatrical elements more liberally, and favors a brighter look and a more diverse musical palette, while O'Neal keeps her smaller ensemble moving within a tighter range of musical and visual tonalities. Most importantly, O'Neal, unlike Macras, always keeps dance at center stage, with music and video playing supporting roles. She wisely confines the video elements of "mockumentary" to three small, raised screens, where they create an effective counterpoint to the dance but never overwhelm or interrupt it.
This is fortunate, because there is much to admire in O'Neal's choreography and the ensemble's performance of it. Some highlights include a low-key duet between Jurg Koch and Ben Maestas, Koch's partnering of O'Neal in the second act, and a remarkable sextet in which pairs of dancers move in and out of canon and unison while another pair of virtual dancers performs similar moves on a video screen above them. Best of all, though, is the stunning duet by O'Neal and Ellie Sandstrom, in which the former's stylish inventiveness and the latter's explosive virtuosity combine to create inspired partnering.
The video elements in "mockumentary" are eclectic and effective. A live feed of Keeble making music usually fills one screen, while the other two are occupied at times by a bombastic choreographer, a ninja dancer, gangs of BMX-riding female punks fighting turf wars, zombie artists stalking their victims, and bikini-clad women on trampolines. None of this makes much sense in any strictly linear way, but O'Neal's eye for composition and editing is so good that it doesn't matter. O'Neal isn't always a technically elegant cinematographer, but boy, has she got vision! Her shots of Ellie Sandstrom in a red hooded jacket atop a BMX bike are hauntingly beautiful and her black-and-white images of Haruko Nishimura in zombie mode make me think of Murnau's "Nosferatu."
So, watch out, Constanza: There's one tough choreographer on your turf, and she rides BMX.
Anne finds that words are inadequate to describe the transcendent beauty and power of modern dance - but she keeps writing anyway.