BWW Reviews: Dixon Place Presents CREATURES OF HABIT
Dixon Place has been a creative haven for the downtown arts scene for nearly 30 years. Bold in its approach to supporting the creative process, Dixon Place did not disappoint in its choice of commissioned work this October - Creatures of Habit, choreographed by Jonathan Royse Windham, a highly entertaining piece.
The evening opened with two pieces that featured all-male casts as a part of Dixon Place's More Moving Men series. Ephrat Asherie's Everybody's Gotta Be a Drummer creatively fused elements of breaking and contemporary in this high-energy duet while LAVA's Feminist ManDate brought unexpected dancers to the spotlight in this simple yet thought-provoking piece. They were great starts to the evening, setting the tone for what was to come.
Creatures of Habit began with the introduction of seven highly dynamic, polarizing characters, which choreographer Jonathan Royse Windham modeled after the Seven Dwarfs, mixing these lovable characters with the Seven Deadly Sins. This fascinating combination along with a deep exploration of movement and functionality within these paradigms transformed these seven moving men into likeable and often hysterical caricatures. Paired together with 1960s TV game show music, lighting design by Ashley Vellano, pedestrian costuming, and a set resembling a homey insane-asylum, Creatures of Habit was like tuning into an episode of your favorite dysfunctional reality television show where strangers are left to live and interact with each other, except unlike most of these shows, this cast was spectacular.
The absurdity of the characters and sure believability in the surreal was thanks to the unyielding commitment of the dancers. They completely embodied and embraced their chosen characters from beginning to end, from their feet to their face. Their idiosyncrasies were signature, easily recognizable throughout the piece, and helped establish these characters into the audience's membranes. These characters were faced with interacting with each other in ensemble pieces, where they chased after lights off into the abyss, or in rousing duets that marked off their place in the house (like some other reality television shows). Their interactions seem unrehearsed, and their meetings fresh, as if they were truly gathered together for the first time. But sprinkles of choreographed segments, which showcased more their dance technique in addition to their acting ability, proved that these were dedicated dancers, not drunkards, boy-band clones, scaredy cats, copycats, the Hulk (less green), neurotic people pleasers, and dopey little ones.
Overall, the takeaway may have been that Jonathan Royse Windham and Dixon Place have begun opening doors and windows, letting fresh air into the closed four walls of dance and allowing opportunities for male dancers to showcase their versatility in dramatic stylized works, not just as athletic wonders of a rare species but as truly well-rounded and talented artists.