Choreographer Megan Mayer revels in unapologetic, campy melodrama set to songs of bygone eras in "You're Soaking In It: Dances saturated, with feeling," which opened at the Bryant-Lake Bowl on Saturday. The piece is an excellent counterpoint to recent trends in contemporary dance moving away from sexuality and emotion. However, Mayer goes full force into it, and the result is, for the most part, delightful.
Photo by Megan Mayer.
The evening begins with the premiere of "52 Olgas," a hilarious send-up of gymnastics set to the tunes of the Shangri-Las. An ensemble of five dancers, all dressed as Olympic skater Olga Korbut with pigtails and all, mug for the audience and deconstruct femininity and competition.
What really makes the piece, and the whole evening, is the inclusion of retired Zenon dancer Greg Waletski, who also co-choreographed both "52 Olgas" and the last piece of the evening, "Scout," about two boy scouts in love. Waletski is so exuberant, so charismatic, that you can't take your eyes off of him as a performer. He also adds a level of technique to the dances that lift them above simple parody. With Mayer's quirky sense of humor and Waletski's effortless form and detail, these pieces become works of art.
Another successful dance is Mayer's "Duet from Soft Fences," a work-in-progress that Mayer developed at the Maggie Allessee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) in Tallahassee, Florida last year. Drawing imagery from abstract ideas of outer space, the work illustrates the experience of losing someone you care about. With an other-worldy minimal set, and haunting sound design by Elliott Durko Lynch, the piece includes space walking and silliness, but ultimately draws you in through the familiarity of the emotions is explores.
Less successful in the evening are two videos which, while goofy enough, don't quite match the live pieces. This has to do with the quality of the video in the case of "Nobody sells gas here anymore." The piece follows two men in snowsuits as they experience various escapades around Minnesota in winter. The video is enjoyable enough, but the lighting is so washed out that it seems like it would be more appropriate on a smaller screen. The other video, "Snowing in Gino," made and performed by Neal Medlyn, shows a '70s-era DJ dorking out to the music of Gino Vannelli, who can be seen singing in the background. It's totally bizarre and funny, but feels more like an internet meme than something to be experienced live.
Mayer also features two dances from "We tried to throw the light," which she presented at the Southern Theater in 2010. In 1960's eveningwear, performers Charles Campbell and Annie Enneking act out a love story as blasé as can be. It's slick and snappy, but doesn't have the delicious exuberance of the other dance pieces.