Ballet with a Twist
Sometimes, "eclectic" can describe a work that successfully incorporates seemingly disparate forms of expression. And sometimes, it can just be a convenient way of saying that the artist couldn’t make up his or her mind.
"Ballet With a Twist" creator Marilyn Klaus has some good ideas, and some very bad ones. But she can’t seem to decide whether her collection of dance pieces named after cocktails should have the good-natured, self-referential silliness of kitsch; or should strive for the high art of serious dance.
I say "named after" rather than "homage to" or "inspired by" cocktails because of the seeming randomness of the pairings. Her ode to Scotch toys around around with a lot of images that don’t coalesce, none of them closer to Scotland than Las Vegas. "Shirley Temple" doesn’t invoke the twisted innocence of a drink served to young people in imitation of grown-up concoctions.
"Roy Rogers" had nothing to do with the cowboy cinema star, or with cowboys or the Old West. "Margarita" invoked neither a queen of Italy nor the Mexico of its alcoholic ingredient, tequila.
So it went throughout the evening, which started with a group of female dancers who, to this viewer at least, looked like the nymph symbol of White Rock soda; and ended with an all-hands-on-deck free-for-all called "Holy Water."
A trio of little girls provided a couple of appreciative nods from the audience, although at one point the choreography got uncomfortably close to "Toddlers and Tiaras" Jon-Benet territory. The few male dancers were underutilized, which was probably a good thing, judging from the bits that were offered.
A few numbers did a better job of relating to the eponymous beverage. In "Absinthe," a green, fairy-like dancer glides about the stage. Not bad, although it avoided the craziness implied in that liqueur’s hallucinogenic properties.
In the evening’s best-conceived number by far, "Martini," a throbbing score provided the backdrop for a James Bond type and a sexy Bond Girl to make stylish ’60s-style cinematic spy poses, especially the iconic Bond pointing and aiming a gun. This had real verve, was tight, and nicely evoked the "shaken not stirred" ethos of Ian Fleming’s gin-loving bon vivant and his glamorous vision of international espionage.
As with the dancing, the accompanying music was literally all over the map. A few live musicians cropped up here and there, most bizarrely when a live trombone accompanied a track.
A word here about XL: Most readers of this site know it as the gay club that provided a much-needed boost to this town’s flagging mid-sized dedicated gay dance spaces. But before the "recreational dancers" invade, it provides a great venue for cabaret acts.
For "Twist," the room was configured to resemble one of those hangouts memorialized in countless old movies, or Ricky Ricardo’s Tropicana. It mostly worked, although having dancers on the same plane as spectators always necessitates some compromise in sight lines.
I really wanted to like "Ballet With a Twist," because I loved the concept of pairing cocktails with interpretative dance. But the evening’s overall blandness kept it away from the top shelf.
"Ballet With a Twist" was held on on Jan. 13. at XL Nightclub, 512 West 42nd Street in New York. For info on future performances, visit www.xlnightclub.com