Before I tell you how fabulous Body Traffic was at The Wallis this past week-end, I have to share something personal. I saw this dance show on May 31, which is my late mother’s birthday. That’s been a painful day for me for the past seven years because, unlike the idiots on Facebook who wish a Happy Birthday to their deceased parents, I’m always aware that my little mo is no longer on this level of life to celebrate her b-day with. So I was grateful for the distraction of this wonderful production.
All five numbers were beautifully danced, and both curtain closers were charming. The penultimate one was the only one that did not belong. I’ll explain later, but everything else about Body Traffic was perfection, so let’s discuss those first.
First of all, the order of the dances was just right, which I always appreciate. All five had similar fluid movements, but were such varied numbers. And from a quintet of separate choreographers! That fascinated me. And the dancers matched each other; no one outdid the others, which is rare. They blended flawlessly. And—here’s another rarity—I was not bored for even one moment of the evening.
In the first offering, Beyond The Edge of the Frame, I didn’t know what any of it meant, but I was riveted. And the dancers were rocking sparkly headpieces that I’m desperate to find for myself, so I was extra into that one.
Then came an excerpt from Fragile Dwellings, which I believe is a longer program. Choreographer Stijn Celis, says it’s “dedicated to the homeless Los Angelinos [sic],” which is nice, although it seems to me that they’ll be the ones to never see it. But it ended with blue and pink moving lights, which are my faves, so I’m a fan, no matter what. (Little things make me happy.)
The third number, the World Premiere of A Million Voices, was absolutely charming. It was right before intermission, and I would have gladly given up mingling to see more of this one, which showcased the entire eight-person company. The choreographer, Matthew Neenan, was in the audience, and when they brought him on stage at the end, he got even more applause than the dancers, which was lovely to see.
The solo right after the break is the one I had a big problem with, so I’ll skip to the last presentation, which was my favorite, and I suspect it was everyone’s, as well. The hallmark of O2Joy is really joyful and colorful dancing, so, of course, I adored it. It was the perfect ending to the leave-them-wanting-more evening of dance.
Before I bring the room down with my problem with that fourth number, I have to digress to a story about the earlier A Million Voices, which features all songs by the late (very late, actually—she died in 2002!,) Peggy Lee. Using her music seems a tad strange for a modern dance company in 2018, but okay. And the whole thing was really fun. But the music made me think of something. My whole life, I’ve hated Peggy’s song Is That All There Is, but I didn’t know why. And now that I had no choice but to listen to it during the dance, I finally have the answer, thanks to hearing it here as a grown-up! It’s that the singer is telling her stories beginning when she was a little girl, and was already jaded, and even worse, saying, “Let’s have booze!” As a child!!! Ugh. Why did no one ever realize how wrong that is?! (I know one of the iconic songwriters, Mike Stoller, so now I can’t wait to see him again to ask him about it.) So, the song made me have something against Peggy Lee from the get-go in life…until I found-out that she was the voice of the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp! And then I was torn, but leaned more into letting her off the hook.
Okay, finally, here’s where I explain why I was pretty much appalled by the piece George & Zalman, (which I have a feeling the company has probably heard from others before me, judging by the fact that their representative who introduced the show apologized for this one in advance.) It was choreographed by Ohad Naharin, who seems to be revered in the dance world, so I’m sure that Body Traffic was more than pleased to present something by him.
The solo dancing in it was excellent, but that’s where the goodness ended for me. Worse than the fact that I hate people trying to be profound, (which I feel Naharin is doing here,) is the audio content of the piece. It’s entirely a very repetitive spoken monolog, with many, many “blue” words in it, which is absolutely classless in my book, especially with several children in the audience. I cringed each time the narrator uttered those words. And since each section of the narrative was repeated, ad nauseum, I couldn’t enjoy any of it because I knew what was coming, and was horrified for the parents in the audience.
Believe me, I have no problem using the f-word, a lot, (I’m from Brooklyn, after all,) but I would never, ever use it in front of children! If I had kids, (which I was grateful that night that I do not,) and was taking them to a live dance show, which is usually such a worthwhile experience, I would have been furious. I found this number to be absolutely offensive because of the language. I don’t ever like hearing speaking along with dance anyway, but this time, it was brutally unacceptable. I could not even enjoy the dancer’s beautiful movements, because I just wanted the whole thing to be over already. Just because someone creates something does not mean that it has to be shown to the world, especially to the inappropriate audience. That time should have been used for a different number that fit in with the other four, and then I could have told you that the entire presentation was really excellent.
But that was my only problem with Body Traffic, which means that four-fifths of the whole shebang were terrific!
Now a quick word about the theatre world, in general. When, before all shows nowadays, there’s an announcement to not text (which I can’t believe that so many grown-ups need to be told to begin with!,) they should also tell them to not read stuff on their smart watches! The woman in front of me did both during this performance!!! How rude. So, please, if you have the attention span of a flea, stay home, and allow the normal and polite among us to enjoy ourselves, uninterrupted by your rudeness and thoughtlessness!!!
Okay, that’s it for my diatribes. I want to thank The Wallis for bringing us this incredible season of dance, and I look forward to their next one, the preview of which I’ll share with you later on this week.