By Theo Boguszewski
The world premiere of ChristinaNoel and the Creature’s “‘murica” showcases choreographer ChristinaNoel Reaves’ signature brand of dance theater. Her unique assortment of flavors challenges, entertains, and ultimately points to a new road for the future of dance.
The piece opens to reveal Jeremy “Jae” Neal slowly circling the stage; the simplicity of his presence immediately captures our attention. From offstage and in the balcony, the sound of humming envelopes us; the cast’s vocalizations comprise the score for the first section of the piece. The regal Joanna Futral, using simple, angular movements that display incredible control, joins Neal. Aristocratic looking in long skirts and high necked leotards, their sensuous opening duet wavers between conflict and tenderness.
Reaves proves that she is more than a choreographer; she is a composer too. Her company consists of incredible dancers who can act and make music. Periodically, these performers accompany themselves by speaking and sustaining long notes. In a raucous canon performed by the full cast, the dancers stomp their feet along with flamenco-inspired hand motions, chanting in canon “you like me, you love me, you want me.”
It is impossible not to notice the camaraderie amongst the group; they enjoy moments of improv comedy just as much as the audience. Neal issues a starling scream, and the entire cast scatters. In a gestural assertion of his manliness, Neal grabs Futral and dramatically dips her. “These are the rules of the game,” Neal announces. Some take him seriously. Others don’t. The proclamation leads to an entertaining series of mini skits evoking a modern version of the founding fathers, struggling to piece together rules for the governing of their new land.
Themes of individuality versus group allegiance (harkening back to the title “‘murica”) proliferate. Liz Beres performs a wild and indulgent solo, accompanying herself with vocalizations; one by one the others take notice and begin to chastise her for defying the group: “Liz, what are you doing?” “Liz, this is just crazy.”
The work constantly wavers between calm and chaos. Peaceful, holy music soon dissipates into heavy rock. Following a pedestrian moment, the cast mutates from humans into sensuous creatures, crawling, lunging, swiping, and gliding. “murica” juxtaposes formality and eccentricity. Reaves, deadpan and serious, appears to recite lyrics in a foreign language. Tara Nicholas performs a flamboyant voguing solo, circling her hips and chanting a catchy song.
The dancers extend their arms behind their heads in a recurring gesture, which bears resemblance to angel wings. As the lights dim, an angelic hum is the only lingering shadow of the performance that occurred. Throughout the piece we see the cast make the transition back and forth between ethereal saints, flawed mortals, and raw creatures. It’s between these extremes that Reaves has found something that feels true to the human condition.
Impressions of: ChristinaNoel and the Creature Present: “‘Murica”
Choreographed by: ChristinaNoel Reaves and Dancers
Presented by: The Irondale
Performed by: ChristinaNoel Reaves, Liz Beres, Joanna Futral, Yeman Brown, Sean Hatch, Jeremy “Jae” Neal, Tara Nicholas, Gautam Nima, Rami Shafi
Lighting design: Adam Greene Costumes: Anastasia Meredith-Goujon and Vita Tzykun
Music: Primus, Fleet Foxes, This Will Destroy You, and original vocal compositions by ChristinaNoel Reaves