Dancing Bear

Larry Goldhuber is performing alone, but collaborating with others

Larry Goldhuber, the biggest man in modern dance, is perhaps most renowned for his performances with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. He was hired in the mid-80s, a time he recounts, “when a lot of people were coming to New York to reinvent themselves.“

He joined the company, in a way, to help himself come out.

“They were so radically gay back then,” Goldhuber recalled.

His pride as a performer comes from that legacy, and from his contributions to Jones’ seminal works like “Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Still/Here.” Goldhuber has been performing and been successful at it for a long time, including a much-praised partnership with fellow Jones/Zane dancer Heidi Latsky that dissolved sourly, and a ten-year relationship appearing in the “sinister slapstick” work of Keely Garfield. For this self-proclaimed “dancing bear,” who has of late become a hot commodity on the Internet dating circuit, performing solo––despite appearances––is not about ego.

“It’s horribly lonely to do a show alone,” Goldhuber said. “Performing solo is lonely. Being backstage, waiting to go on is not so much fun.”

“But,” he was quick to add, “it’s easier to do a solo show than to risk another bad break up.”

Goldhuber’s latest creation, originally presented at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Arts (PICA), is a kind of behind the scenes biography story, a tongue-in-cheek mockumentary of the rise and fall of motivational speaker Barry Goldhubris.

“I’m a sell-out, a suck-up. Learn to fake sincerity and you’ll have it made.” These are the mantras of the imaginary Mr. G.

Like his last show at PS 122 in 2001, “When the World Smells Like Bacon,” humor and pathos combine to produce an unexpectedly moving and slightly sad portrait of a man. But unlike “Bacon,” which was autobiographical––“an honest show,” Larry calls it––this show is about a completely fictional character. “It’s all a lie!” Goldhuber declared with glee.

While the real Mr. G. enjoys the newfound relative freedoms of working alone, he likes to collaborate on the creation of his works. Filmmaker David Brooks wrote and directed “The Life and Times of Barry Goldhubris.” (Josh Harnett’s first on-screen appearance was in a short by Brooks.)

The set features three screens, nine feet high by 20 feet wide, with the panels arranged like a tri-fold mirror. With material shot from three different angles, the combined visuals produce a cinemascope or IMAX-like effect.

“The film,” Goldhuber said, “acts as both a backdrop and as narrative device for moving the story ahead.”

When he is on stage dancing or doing monologues, the images are static. When he is offstage, the moving images are designed to generate emotional impact. Interview subjects, including Big Dance Theater’s Paul Lazar as historian, Gus Solomons Jr. as CEO, David Dorfman as Barry’s best friend in high school, and Juilliard’s Elizabeth Keen as Governess, are presented TV style.

With a running time under an hour, the work is dense, tracing the character’s history from his humble youth, where he dances an homage to Gene Kelly with mop and pail in an abattoir. The “Howard Hughes ending” portrays Barry in a straitjacket, with giant versions of his own disembodied heads shouting at himself, a segment he describes as “too scary for Keely’s son to watch.”

“My goal,” Goldhuber said, “is to make an entertaining show. If it reaches art, even better.”

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