Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nicholas Leichter- THE WHIZ

You gotta watch this first!

Okay, now that you've looked at the "trailer" see if my thoughts on Nicholas Leichter's The WHIZ makes sense to you.

The YouTube highlights really capture the outrageous, fun, over-the-top performance. The show performed at Bates Dance Festival showed a dance company that is at home performing both cabaret style dance as well as technical contemporary dance. I'll get to the serious dance later, but first let's talk about pulling off a in your face extravaganza. This adaptation of the classic story of the Wizard of Oz- story line: trouble at home, disaster, fantasy, who is your friend, trouble from a real witch, help from a real wizard, and finding out that there really is no place like home. Yikes- how to do this with movement and dance? This was rendered and brought to life by lots of short sections that used eight dancers and MC MONSTAH BLACK to take the audience along the yellow brick road. He was a campy guide that sang and danced, and, the outfits he wore are awesome.

Leichter is comfortable choreographing segments that vary from abstract to literal. He sets up a struggle for the audience, we get goofy fun followed by serious dance. He takes us inside and personal with a contemplative songs sung live, then to a rollicking group dance segments that offered grinding rhythmic motion that built to a jubilant frenzy. Or sections that dancers partnered and played with fierce attack. As an audience member it's tough to make the whole show cohesive, but we know the tale and it's actually refreshing to not have to have the whole story laid out in a decipherable way.

The whole production showed very strong performances by the entire ensemble. The cast were all skilled in Leichter's style that varies from embodying difficult movement done in a fluid seemingly effortless fashion. That's a real feat! His dancers also excel at fast-paced more theatrical style movements. And they are good storytellers with their entire bodies and faces. A very pleasing group to watch.

Outlandish Fun.

THE WHIZ at The Bates Dance Festival. Schaffer Theater, Lewiston Maine July 23, 2011

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