David Neumann’s choreography, Will Eno’s text provide a studied evening of capriciousness
There was a lot going on with very little sense of direction in David Neumann’s humorous vision of a utilitarian humanity, “Tough, the Tough,” performed by his Advanced Beginner Group at Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church April 14 to 17.
His Groucho Marxist Everyman, dressed in dark blue coveralls, introduces us to the indecisive movement vocabulary that accompanies the text by playwright Will Eno, which proclaims in a 1960s documentary-style voice that, “Mankind is staying around.” A martial arts sensibility characterizes the dance phrases, in which functional gestures, cheeky poses, swatting, muttering and long lines and deep, moving plies suggest a purpose to the aimless action.
Acting is a big part of what goes on in Neumann’s work. He and his cast of unusual performers—Kimiye Corwin, Taryn Griggs, Karinne Keithley, Erin Wilson and Chris Yon—are perfectly charming and completely draw the watcher into their unisex world of auto-mechanics, full of sound gags, vaudevillian physicality and pathos. David Moodey’s colorful and shifting light patterns along with live sound by Daniel Barnidge and Hal Hartley’s composition of street noises, voice clips and music envelop the action and drive the work emotionally, as Eno’s text provides the semblance of an omniscient, rational counterpoint, along the lines of “Aren’t we something?”
As in previous work, Yon matches Neumann’s comic timing and command of the space when they dance together. A duet derived from the bizarre galumphing ritual of the changing of the guard at the India-Pakistan border seems made for their combination of serious and funny gallivanting.
A kind of epilogue closes the piece, a duet for the sensuous Corwin and the tenacious Wilson, now stripped of their worker’s uniforms and wearing short dresses instead, dancing less tough, as a rain of glitter slowly falls from above.