Friday, November 19, 2010

Dance Review: Blues, Rock, and Rachmaniov! -Complexions at The Joyce Theater

Complexions -Photgraphy by Paul Goode
On opening night of the Complexions Fall/Winter season at The Joyce Theater, the audience, comprised with many power players of the dance world, not only buzzes with excitement and anticipation, but also disappointment.  We hear that dance royalty, the breathtaking brilliant and talented, Desmond Richardson, is suffering from an injury (received earlier in the afternoon) and is not dancing in this evening's performance!  ....Eee Gads  ...Say it ain't so!  Like many audience members, I question if Complexions’ performance will possess the same virility with the absence of Richardson.

The curtain rises, and any doubt in the room dissipates with an exploding big bang as Dwight Rhoden’s Moon Over Jupiter takes shape over Rachmaniov’s score.  A meteor shower of momentum and dynamics, the ballet showcases the extreme unique talent and technique of all the Complexion dancers.  Like an orbiting solar system, the dancers move in organized chaos into an eclipse of synchronization.  Metallic, spider webbed leotards and shorts expose the dancer’s thoroughbred, horse-like muscularity, direct proof that these dancers are pushing their physical means.  Clifford Williams, the shooting star of the ballet, demands attention with phenomenal extension and effortless fluidity of movement that only the trained eye would understand the extreme complexity and challenge of the choreography.

Are You a DANCER?  Join iDANZ Today!On Holiday opens part duex of the evening and relies on the show business aspect of dance.  Slightly reminiscent of Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, On Holiday is danced by four couples expressing four stages of love.  Each couple embodies the lyrics of Billie Holiday, but Christina Dooling and Edgar Anido really transport the audience to a Love-Hate relationship. Intensity and heartache emanate through the audience as Doling and Amide manipulate each other to provide a heart wrenching performance.

Originally, to follow On Holliday, is Richardson to dance A Goldberg Variation, but instead, Christie Partelow and Mark Caserta dance Rhoden ‘s Spill.  Entering with abandonment in a grand jete lift, Partelow and Caserta leave you with no regret from missing Richardson’s performance.  In complete unison, they dance in a continuous stream of intricate and exhilarating partnering.  Like riding a rollercoaster of constant excitement and unexpected turns, Rhoden’s Choreography escapes all predictability confirming his much revered status in the realm of today's contemporary choreographers.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Photography by Sharen Bradford A fun and lively Moody Booty Blues is like the after hours employee dance scene in “Dirty Dancing” where Baby meet Patrick Swayze for the first time.  The dancers dance fearlessly with grounded movement and soulful rhythm.  Moody Booty Blues showcases the young talent of Complexions;  Gary W. Jeter II sets a very high bar with his opening solo of insane syncopations and intricate isolations and Peter Chursin and Stefano DeMartino match Jeter’s energy.  Chursin is especially captivating with his flawless technique and exquisite lines.  After grabbing my attention, I couldn’t stop watching Chursin in the finale piece Rise.

Rise, which Rhoden choreographed to various songs by U2, opens with the song “The Streets Have No Name” and one man running in the spotlight.  High impact choreography plus Bono and the Edge guarantee an awesome performance.  I have seen U2 live in concert several times, and the Complexions Dancers even give Bono some competition.

Complexion dancers are a dynamic breed of physicality that is unparallel to most contemporary and ballet companies.  The dancers elevate the choreography and provide a powerful performance of non-stop impressive feats.

Complexions Fall/Winter season continues to run through November 28th at the Joyce Theater.

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iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Katherine Gibson
Performance: Complexions
Choreographer: Dwight Rhoden
Venue: Joyce Theater, New York, NY
Show Date: Tuesday 16th, 2010
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dance Review: Treeline’s Show and Tell; the Proper Way to Play

Treeline Dance Works, Photography by Katelin Carter Happy Birthday Treeline Dance Works!  Although this one-year-old company may be just a baby on the dance scene, kiddos look out because she is growing in vigorous leaps and bounds…quite literally, in fact!

Her first full-length show, In Transit, demonstrates how technical prowess can meet child-like playfulness.  Throughout, dancers play their bodies like musical instruments as they weave intricate formations and portray comedic/disturbing narratives.  They seem to make games of spatial patterns as they move like scattering marbles or jumping checkers.  All is accomplished with outstanding precision and ease.  These ladies are not only capable of great feats of agility, but also of an honest connectedness to each other on stage.

All hailing from SUNY Brockport, company members Erin Johnson, Caroline Nelson, Jessica Reidy, Jenny Showalter, and Lyndsey Vader are a fox-force-five to be reckoned with. Lyndsey Vader’s sense of control, for example, in her solo “Pulse/Apology”, is breathtaking to watch.  What astounding technical abilities she has with her brilliant execution of delicate balances and sharp, quick movements, all while speaking about the sound of her pulse.  My heart stops, like her narrative describes, as she rocks in-and-out of warrior III, flips around to relevĂ© and halts deftly on a dime.  The disturbing last image, a fist under open palm, looks like a heart with splayed aortic valves.  Oh, Treeline, you’ve kindled my inner-child’s imagination!

Immediately following is another energetic solo performance by Jessica Reidy, in “The (un)Natural Art of Dating.”  This rousing jaunt into 1950’s dating has me enchanted from the get-go.  Reidy instructs her audience members on the do’s and don’ts of catching a mate by winking, batting her lashes, and, my favorite, wetting her eyebrows!  She explains the importance of holding a longing gaze as she performs an Exorcist-like head rotation.   Absolutely brilliant!  Her ensemble, Erin Johnson and Caroline Nelson, are perfect.  The threesome dance-on together with the subtle pin-up sex-appeal of the Andrews sisters.  The characterization is complete as nostalgic music plays and house-wife aprons sway, leaving me all giggles and smiles!

Become a Member.  Join iDANZ Today!“Traveling to Recall A Becoming Of,” choreographed by Jenny Showalter, is another heavy weight champ in this choreographic line up.  Here, the playfulness comes forth in the port de bras, as the girls use various arm gestures to draw lines in space.  They make pulsing gestures with the hands, long reaches of the fingers and very specific movement like poking, jabbing, threading-the-needle, etc.  Here, Showalter carves out space on stage by having the dancers spin in circles and run in diagonals.  She also creates the image of hallways as the dancers run upstage to downstage.  If Jeffy, from Family Circus, were dancing, he’d leave one helluva dotted-line map on stage!

Beautiful spatiality also appears in the opening piece, “Caged Until”, which is, in my opinion, the most outstanding piece of the evening.  This piece represents Treeline’s sense of play perfectly.  Audience members are greeted by the upstage right violin trio, whose diagonal bowing movements seem to inspire the entering dancers whose outstretched arms oppose outstretched legs in an off-balance tilt.  Lovely!  They move in and out of unison, using musical phrasing and quick level changes to create a gorgeous symphony.

Again, Showalter is a master at choreographing spatial arrangements.  I find myself so entranced by her patterns that I fail to notice how suddenly, the dancers are lined up at the stage's edge with their backs to the audience.  A musical change happens, as the fourth wall is broken, and my experience shifts from spectator to insider.  I become engaged in their game.

Yes, the rest of the piece is like a game.  A series of place-switching follows as they stir up space like in a game of tag.  This leads to another line-up, but this time, a wall line-up for picking teams on a playground. There is a persistent theme of odd-man out, which is perhaps representative of playground politics.  Signature to Showalter’s style, specific hand gestures are repeated in motifs, i.e. a head cradled in a partner’s hands, and, most memorably, the fist meeting the open palm as when rock meets paper in “rock, paper, scissors”.

Favorite moment in the entire show: a dramatic lift where one dancer grabs hold of another’s waist and hoists her own lower body into the spot where bodies should collide, but the third dancer ducks in the nick of time!  Shocking and yet not shocking at the same time because this is so characteristic of how fabulously these femmes dance together.  They dive into near-miss lifts and athletic floor phrases, as fearlessly as a five-year-old does a flying dismount off the swing set!

The playful nature continues well into the second act.  In Jenny Showalter’s solo, “Kilter”, weight-play rules. With the music reminiscent of a French bistro or circus, I imagine Showalter as a mime on a tightrope at times.  There's an off-balance circular section that conjures the image of a spinning top as it begins to lose steam.  Unfortunately, the rest of the second act begins to lose steam as well.  I notice an overwhelming music trend throughout the evening: strings.  And while nice to start, I find the use of violins and/or cellos (in over half the pieces) to be a bit tiresome by the end, and soon crave something different.

Treeline Dance Works, Photography by Katelin Carter

While the music DOES support the playful style—switching drastically from slow and meditative, to speedy and virtuosic—it can be on the verge of melodramatic as is the case with “A Shell of Herself.”  In this text duet, Lyndsey Vader and Caroline Nelson pounce around like ferrets, squeaking out lines barely audible above the intense music, which is building unnecessarily.  I feel as though I am watching a soap opera, one where the actors are clearly reading cue cards.  The text seems superimposed and not at all connected with what the dancers are saying with their bodies.  If we put the whole piece on mute, as Lindsey does to herself in the beginning of the piece (a moment I actually love), then the message would read something like this:  “Look at this.  Look at me.  Look at all this dancing.  See these tricks?  My leaps and kicks?  I’m flexing, pointing, leg-extending, rolling and panting…  all in my undergarment dressings.”  Perhaps this is all intentional, referring back to the title, “Shell of Herself”. The one time Nelson says, “I don’t know what that means,” face-to-face with Vader, I finally believe her.  But then, the movements quickly return to that familiar dance/yoga/Pilates vocabulary, and I’m even more anxious to see something different.

Similar are my feelings on the last piece, “Unearthed Moments.”  Playful still, it begins with counting, like a young girls’ hand-clapping song.  I adore the choice of all heads looking up at the first number, “four.”  This reminds me of the attention-catching word “fore” used in golf.  But the movement is still all so akin to what came before, and at this point, I’m desperately waiting for them to produce something outside the choreographic sandbox:  to get away from codified dance for a moment and explore moving more pedestrian or with more subtlety.  The moment of saving grace happens when Caroline Nelson sits perched atop supporting bodies and does a slow pan across the audience.  Yes!  Slowness.  Stillness.  A moment to reflect and digest.  In fact, I love the subsequent slow motion movement wishing I could see more of it!

Overall, Treeline does a beautiful job of painting the canvas with lots of detail and activity, but one doesn’t necessarily have to show all one’s cards at once.  I think they can afford to do less, in some respects.  Going back to “Pulse/Apology”, the silent score supports Vader’s moments of suspension beautifully, and I find myself wishing it would last longer when jarringly, a background score of medieval chants is introduced.  Although the sounds are haunting, they are also distracting from the text.  Perhaps if the music were more sparse, I’d be able to decipher the text better.

In Transit marks a choreographic rite-of-passage; the event where artistic directors Jenny Showalter and Lyndsey Vader show form a synthesis of what they’ve gathered over the past few years—from schoolings at SUNY Brockport, residencies in New York and Chicago, and mentors such as Pamela Vail, and Don Halquist (guest choreographers in the program).  What an appropriate title indeed!  Congratulations to them as they make this daring  transition from the classroom/studio into the professional dance world.  And while there are always points to work on, there are outnumbering points of interest that give this company much success!

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iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Teresa Lynn
Performance:  Dance by Treeline Danceworks
Venue:  Center for Performance Research, CPR
Show Date:  November 6, 2010
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Dance Review: Eryc Taylor Dance, Pushing Boundaries

Eryc Taylor Dance, Photography by Satoshi
Eryc Taylor Dance wraps up an amazing sold-out run at Joyce SoHo in Spectacular fashion.  With excitement, grace, power, and beauty, this is a company to watch. The company, consisting of Isabelle Fernandez, Gierre Godley, Dillon Honniker, Carly Mayer, Michelle Pellizon and Danielle Schulz, is filled with excellent performers exhibiting with "no holds back" what great dancers they are!

The evening opens with Drowntown.  Amazingly athletic and energetic, this is a powerhouse.  The dancers weave and dodge one another without missing a beat, yet join each other to prove a point at different times.   It is inspiring...  Imagine walking through Time Square at rush hour.  Watch out or you will get left in the dust!

Next on the program is Wraith. Danced by Michelle Pellizzon and Danielle Schulz, this piece is hauntingly beautiful.  With costumes by Tonatiuh Otero, they look like beautiful red Nymphs.  Showing their clean and pure technique, they dance in tune with each other ever so effortlessly.  Nymphs in a time of loss, they are still, however, hopeful for what is to come...  Beautiful!

Moving on to The Polarity, danced by Gierre Godley and Dillon Honiker, all I can say is WOW!!!!  Showstopper.  They both dance with power and masculinity; it is refreshing.  Throwing themselves on each other without a care in the world, they are out to kill!  I am immediately put in to the frame of thought of watching “The Matrix”, a wonderful fight scene with all the special effects coming to life right before me.  This (The Polarity) is wild abandon at it's best!

Are You Fierce?  Join iDANZ today! The Missing, danced by Michelle Pellizon, is next and what a shocking surprise...  She is a revelation in this piece shaking, twisting, and contorting her body into oddly beautiful positions.  It’s really amazing. Merging her beautiful technique with the oddest of moves it is like watching a drug addict fight through withdrawal.  Happiness, sadness, longing, and cravings she is going through all the emotions right before your eyes.  I am happy to report she wins in the end!  Congrats!

And finally, Terminus, wraps up this wonderful evening.  Danced by the company, they save the best for last taking complete command of the stage and not being afraid of it.  The power of the dancers fill the floor bringing the audience to the edge of their seats.  Their movements are faster, sharper, and clean, as if to put the final stamp on the evening.  Wearing costumes by Keiko, they leave the audience wanting more and ready to stand up and join in!   Eryc Taylor Dance is one company not to be missed.

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iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Devin Pullins
Performance  Eryc Taylor Dance
Venue:  Joyce SoHo
Show Date:  November 13, 2010
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Dance Review: Neil Greenberg - Saggy-Crotch Tights are the Cats Pajamas!

Johnni Durango, Paige Martin, Luke Miller, Mina Nishimura, Colin Stilwell, and  Neil Greenberg; "like a vase" / Neil Greenberg

By George—or better yet, by Merce—Neil Greenberg’s got good design; this former Cunningham dancer not only knows how to make a fashion statement, but also how to make statement, a fashion.  His past works have made quite the mark, inviting audience members to question status-quo gender roles, ponder common assumptions about HIV/AIDS, and interrogate what society associates with homosexuality.  And now, his latest work, (like a vase), continues the expedition into the social-norm jungle.

Take for example the opening section, which brings to light the status-quo obsession with looks, and body image.  We see dancer, Johnni Durango, enter and stand center stage amongst the inanimate columns and vases.  Suddenly, she is no longer a dancer, but an object: a thing to be looked at, studied, and critiqued… like a piece of art —like a vase!— and perhaps like a candid celebrity beach body shot in US Weekly.  Thanks to a humorous recorded narrative by Ruth Draper, “A Class in Greek Poise,” the words guide us further into this judgmental state of mind. As we look at Durango —tall and slender— we hear Ruth say “214 pounds?...oh its 241 pounds? Bloomers please.”

“Ladies, line-up” Ruth continues.  And Durango assumes a pose on relevĂ©, hands behind back and elbows bent…  like the wings of an exotic bird. (well with plumage like that of her loud, patterned tights, she’d have to be exotic!) Perhaps some abstract ode to Barbie? Or…as Ruth gabs on and on about poise, Durango starts strutting around with delicate, toe-pointed steps; she circles the column-confined area, and I feel as though I’m watching a peacock parading round its pen at the zoo.

Have Something to Say?  Join iDANZ Today!  Neil Greenberg, who by this point has furtively entered and placed one vase at each column’s base, begins clapping.  It’s not, by any means, directed at Durango, but because of her spatial arrangement, the model strut she just gave, and what transpired in the narrative, I connect the dots, and interpret that he is, indeed, applauding her.

Here’s the unique thing about Neil Greenberg’s choreography:  many of the goings on—the score, the dancers, the set, the musicians—have the strength to operate independently from one another.  But when they do sync-up coincidentally, they suddenly seem intentional… and then there’s meaning in them thar hills!  So although Neil’s clapping at that exact moment may seem intentional in relation to Durango, as the piece goes on, clapping returns in other moments as part of the phrasing, and by contrast we see there may be no meaning at all:  it’s just a neutral gesture.  How about a dancer taking a sip of coffee, followed by a sip of water off-stage?  It appears to be a pedestrian gesture of no meaning.  But take the same movement, and have two dancers do it in unison, and suddenly, I notice myself trying to “figure it out”.

This is Neil’s other obsession, which now has become mine too:  “tensions created by the seemingly inescapable human desire to create meaning.”   The eccentric movements may coincide with the score, and by default, I can’t help but draw a connection for them.  Ruth says “swing your weight forward” and the dancers do swinging movements with their arms.  As musicians, Zeena Parkins and Shayna Dunkelman, tune up the harp and other instruments, the text speaks of using one’s breath like a “musical instrument.”  Another cue, via the text:  Ruth is “prancing through the forest” with the hypothetical fat girls she is coaching.  Greenberg and Luke Miller are prancing about the space too…  in the most laugh-out-loud-funny way!  And later, Paige Martin’s vibrating palms begin as a move all-their-own; but once paired with the echoing sound of the harp, it looks as though she is struggling to cage the sound between her two hands.

Neil Greenberg,

I am tickled by my ability to connect the dots and create meaning.  We all are...  everyone giggles with delight at the sight of two dancers sipping coffee in unison.  We all love to feel like we “get it.”  But we also love to be challenged.  Several times throughout the show, a dancer brings a microphone stand on-stage, taps and blows into the mike, but says nothing.  Hmmm…what does that mean?  I question.

Similarly, a move may be repeated several times throughout the show, but in different contexts; the audience is prompted to question why they felt a certain way about it the first time, and differently the second. I watch Mina Nishimura introduce a head tapping solo far upstage left, behind the musicians, and partially obstructed by the light booms.  She is clearly lit, so I am clearly drawn to watch her, and yet this is the first time I give my full attention to a dancer who is not dancing on the white marley, “pedestal” stage.  Shortly after, Collin Stillwell does this same movement on stage, and I wonder:  is it the status-quo to label movement on the marley as “dance,” and movement off the marley as “not dance?”  Does placement determine what something is and isn’t?

Real Friends, Real Pros, Real Dancers....  Only on iDANZ.  Join Today!The exquisiteness of Greenberg’s work is his ability to provoke such philosophical battles.  Also noteworthy is his ability to give dimension:  the simplicity of his movements, the repetition, the sparseness on stage alternated craftily with crowdedness…also the sparseness in the score alternated with lushness.  There is time for movement, and time to digest.  Repetition occurs, and we reflect once more; contemplate and re-contemplate.  The openness of his dance score allows audience members time and space to think… feel…  and ponder…..  all while experiencing something truly beautiful!  What a wonderful gift!

A cornucopia of beauty, in fact,  besides the dancing, there’s a beautiful set to behold!  Four black vases are lined up in a row:  their stark silhouettes in contrast to the white marley floor.  Also prominent are four white columns, arranged in a square, and a giant turquoise harp upstage.  This scene harkens to Greco/Roman classical art…a Michelangelo painting perhaps.

The harp is obviously functional:  also creating beauty for the ears to hear, thanks to the ingenious musings of harpist and composer Zeena Williams.  In this city where time and space are hot commodities, I rejoice in the moments of inserted breathing time to bring notice to all elements…. even the musicians themselves.  For example, there is a long instance where no dancers are on stage—just the musicians playing their instruments—and I am perfectly content watching them do their thang!

Dance by Neil Greenberg
The openness of Greenberg’s dance score lends itself to be pondered, questioned…  and personalized to tastes of the individuals watching it.  My neighbor may see one way, and I another.  Neil’s work doesn’t limit itself to one definition, and that’s part of the gift as well. Greenberg’s passion for artistic statement is strong…  but even stronger is his passion for the audience.  He makes his work accessible, choosing to include the public on his exploration of social norms, as opposed to alienating them with high-brow airs.   How considerate and generous! (like a Vase) is really like a gift: an hour of pure, thought-provoking stage play, handed to the New York public like a delicately wrapped piece of ceramic art.

So little pilgrims, the thanks-giving season is upon us; and now is as good a time as any to remind ourselves the importance of thank you notes.  You may not have liked those pajamas Aunt Millie gave you last year, but you will definitely like Neil Greenberg’s multicolored, psychedelic saggy-crotch tights!...  and even more so, his work (like a vase).   It is a masterfully crafted gem, certainly worthy of the pedestal he puts it on for all to enjoy.  Please thank him by seeing this show!

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iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Teresa Lynn
Performance:  Dance by Neil Greenberg
Venue:  Dance Theater Workshop, DTW
Show Date:  November 9, 2010
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dance Review: The Strong and the Beautiful, Cedar Lake at The Joyce

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Photography by Francois Rousseau

Well, what's there not to say about Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet?  A diverse repertory company of exquisite technical beasts would be dream and playground for any guest choreographer; or, so it seems, based on the three works on the bill (Sunday Again, Unit in Reaction, and Hubbub) for one of their evenings at the Joyce Theater.

The evening opens with Jo Stromgen's Sunday Again, a lighthearted, whimsical portrayal of a collection of lovers all dealing with the usual feuds and qualms of being in a relationship paralleled to back and forth quality experienced in a tennis match.  Literally.  Props used include Real Friends, Real Dancers, Real Pros...  Only on iDANZ!a tennis net, raquet, and plastic shuttlecocks that randomly appear from underneath clothing.  All this in place is a quaint and neat set-up for a perfectly boring piece.  However, Stromgen infuses stark humor via unexpected male/female moments of roughness, lesbian eroticism, and other social behaviors such as spitting and gossiping amongst themselves.  Overall, these nuances work well together in Strongen's choreography to keep the audience in tune and alert to fleeting moments of wit.

The dancers shift into a much darker and somber mode in the next piece, Unit in Reaction, choreographed by Jacopo Godani.  In this adrenaline-driven suspenseful piece, the dancers seem to operate as if they are all apart of a machine, or better yet a group of lab rats under experimentation and our surveillance.  The dancers create luscious lines and move intricately between each other in breathtaking duet and solo work. Godani's work digs beneath the surface and accentuates all that is juicy in this company and just uses technique as icing on the cake.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Photography by The evening closes with my favorite work, Alexander Ekman's Hubbub.  Now although the concept of the piece has been done before (there is no such thing as a new idea) Ekman took it to a new level!  This is one of those pieces where no amount of words can do it justice.  You just have to see it for yourself.  But here are a few personal highlights:  the suspended typewriter, rhythmic breathing phrase, accumulation, and a perfectly cute duet performed by Nikemil Concepcion and Harumi Terayama in which we hear a recording of the dancers personal thoughts as they execute each step.  Hubbub is one of those pieces that is difficult to walk away not just liking, but also, finding yourself talking about for the next few days!

You're probably wondering how I can critique Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and not highlight any dancers.  Simple.  They are all ridiculously good looking and beautiful artists.  So here we go: Jubal Battisti, Jon Bond, Nickemil Concepcion, Gwynenn Taylor Jones, Jason Kittelberger, Ana Maria Lucaciu, Navarra Novy-Williams, Oscar Ramos, Matthew Rich, Acacia Schachite, Harumi Terayama, Vania Doutel Vaz, Manuel Vignoulle, Ebony Williams, and Golan Yosef...  You Rock Fierce!

CLICK HERE & CONNECT with the Members of the iDANZ Critix Corner! iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Simone Sobers
Performance:  Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance Company
Choreography:  Jo Stromgen, Jacopo Godani, Alexander Ekman
Venue:  The Joyce Theater, New York City 
Show Date:  Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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