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26 July 2008

Elvis and Other Men

As I’ve said before, because I am a working producer and actor in town, I have given up writing reviews of local shows. However, no one else is contributing very much just now, and I feel I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the superb work being done by Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance.

I saw “Elvis and Other Men” earlier this summer, and was once again delighted that one of the (thankfully) few $30 tickets in town was absolutely, completely worth it.

Just the opening image got me all giddy about live performance all over again. The stage was dimly lit, and completely bare, save a gentle, vibrant, deep red scrim behind the vast expanse of the DW. Then, a single male dancer –in leggings and not much more—walked across, in a straight line, from one side to the other. And then another followed. And more and more, at different speeds, each just moving from one side of the stage to the other, back and forth, but always exiting completely before turning around and changing speeds. They were not lit from the front, so it was just these very masculine profiles darting about, and it seem eventually like there must be dozens of them. I was reminded, actually, of watching birds. I have said before that I don’t know much about dance, and tend to look for a literal story where there none, at least not a literal or maybe chronological one, but I didn’t mind in the slightest not knowing what the “story: of these dancers was. Like birds, each had their own random individual beauty, and all together they were clearly part of something larger that was not a story so much as the experience of being alive and experiencing something of great natural beauty, that I was somehow a part of as well. Like if you really notice birds engaged in a simple task, say eating, you start to notice how, yeah sure, they are all the same sort of creature, but simultaneously they are also individual animals, and something about that duality and simplicity fascinates and inspires, and you could just sit there watching them for a surprisingly long time.

At any rate the entire, long first piece was amazing—even once all the lights were turned on.

There were several shorter pieces, also for men, mostly choreographed by Heather Malloy, which for me ranged from satisfyingly amusing to very cool, if not quite as perspective-changing as that first piece. I especially liked the solo piece for dancer and train.

The finale was another great Malloy dance featuring Holiday Childress and Ménage upon a hastily constructed platform up right, from which they switched on their electric guitars and played music by the Violent Femmes, while the dancers turned the DW into a giant club, stormed the stage, and danced the night away in a series of solo and group dances that effectively told multiple stories, established multiple distinct characters, and used a very traditional art form to tap into very modern struggles, triumphs, and rhythms. It’s hard to know if the performers of the audience were having a better time, and that is a great thing.

Staging an entire evening of all male ballet must surly have sounded like an unusual and possibly even absurd idea, but Terpsicorps pulled it off with that same sense of play, of wonder, of absolute joy that they bring to everything they do. It was hugely refreshing to experience as a human being, and as an artist. I don’t think I’ve been that excited to be a part of Asheville’s performing arts community since maybe NCSC’s “Chesapeake.”

Now that’s what I call a reason to go see theatre.

--Willie Repoley

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