Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Mantis-cide Straight Up" Show Review

The Harid Conservatory lit up Boca Raton's Countess de Hoernle Theater this year yet again. The conservatory's three spring shows included the Greek Dance (from Le Corsaire), Les Patineurs (Pas de Trois), Sleeping Beauty (excerpts), and Mark Godden's Mantis-cide Straight Up. The latter piece is a Harid premier as well as a world premier that showcased choreographer Mark Godden as well as twenty-one of Harid's students.

The stage started out dark and foggy (dazed and confused anyone?). Two girls enter; both identical yet so different. They wear a green leotard with pink tights and hair pulled into two crazy antennas. Their angular arms sway in circular motions - rocking to the music. They each carry a martini glass on a platter. After they cross the entire stage and exit, a new couple emerges in a pool of light.

Together the insects dance: male and female. Where one pushes, the other pulls. Their energies unite into one as they continue their mating dance. There is one moment - a short yet distinctive pause - where she steps away from him. She looks at him with blind judgment in her eyes. The tables have turned; now he is hers. Now the animal dance continues as she grabs his neck and covers his eyes. He tries to run, but there is no where to hide.

More girls (or insects rather) enter and block his escape. They force him to the ground and cover his body with a sheet - they ran around him creating a circular ritual almost. The two girls with martini glasses come back and pour an oozing red liquid over his draped body.

The music suddenly stops. What was dark and mysterious is now classical? Yes, Minkus' Shades from La Bayadere now begins to play. One by one girls enter from upstage stage-left (deja-vu anyone?); except they are not doing any arabesques. Godden's genius is how he transforms these girls into bugs - or rather cannibalistic praying mantises. They zig-zag the entire stage repeating their rhythmic trances and fist pumping provocative lunges.

The climax of this part of the piece is when all the girls stop their dance and hold a pose with their arm holding their leg in an attitude a la seconde - all with their hand covering their eyes. At this point every person in the theatre was sitting at the edge of their seat. And now, the girls all slowly and uniformly extended their leg to a new level of elevation. Now they angrily push their leg down. The harp drones on as the end of Shades approaches. The man enters again with his mate, and a new dance begins.

Now more people enter including more men, and the tremendous music has a catchy beat. Each person pounds their wrists to the floor. Half the cast jumps in linear lines as the other half sways and sits in their hips. The men leave and the women take over the stage. They thrust their hips and form a small clump. They turn their backs on us and begin to apathetically walk away. They hypnotize us while five couples enter shifting in a big square.

These five couples unite us as they mate in a challenge dance. When it seems the male succeeds, the female always prevails.

Now everyone is running in tight clusters and thrusting their hips in an astute manner and hopping all over! After this dance everyone leaves - the men are dead lying on top of one another. The stage is dark again. The girls now circle back on and sit around their prey. Each girl carries a martini glass where they toast to their feast. They each take a devious sip and sway and bounce around the men.

The curtain closes.

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