BWW Reviews: With 'Dream Logic,' Aura Curiatlas Offers Mature, Amusing Dance Theatre
For all the razzle-dazzle of modern technology, and all the wonders of computer-generated images on film, there is still nothing more miraculous, diverse and hilarious than the human body. We forget all too often just how much artistic potential lies under our own skin, waiting to be explored.
Aura Curiatlas, and its current program "Dream Logic" is dedicated to the idea that with a simple stage, simpler costumes and a sound cue or two, you can create magic. Their evening of 10 dance vignettes is fascinating exploration of dance, physics, romance, with a healthy dose of cheap slapstick. The daring physicality and creativity of the company is a reminder for those techno-geeks out there that the stage, still, truly belongs to the performing artist.
Company founders Joan Gavaler and Dan Plehal have developed a series of pieces that run the gamut from abstract movement to gymnastics to physical comedy, by turns romantic, pensive and playful. Emphasis on playful; audience members were greeted at the door with a plain paper program and the crayon of their choice, to color in as they pleased-which set the stage nicely for their first piece, "Krayola," revealing the secret life of those waxy sticks in that brightly-colored cardboard box.
One aspect of Aura Curiatlas' work that is fascinating is that the finished pieces we see, and even the titles, are hardly ever assembled in smooth order. "Krayola," for example, began as a series of improvisations that only later acquired its name and its narrative frameork. Other episodes in the program appear to be more straightforward. "Etude" featured Gavaler as a dance virtuoso confronted with her worst nightmare-a crazed fan (played with goofy exuberance by Jane Rabinowitz) who insists on joining her favorite dancer onstage. The battle of wills and moves that ensues is hilarious, as the Fan From Hell finally learns what it takes to rule the stage.
Although narrative dance is the company's strong suit there is also room for character studies like "Strings," which have no recognizable plot but feature clearly-drawn characters (Mickey Lonsdale and Dan Plehal). Company founders Joan Gavaler and Dan Plehal have also developed a fascinating piece, "Dust," which features moves and discreet costumes that can evoke even a biblical sense of where we come from and where we're headed.
One of the strong suits of the company is physical comedy, and it's hardly a coincidence that at least one member has studied Commedia dell'Arte, the centuries-old Italian genre of slapstick that relies on sight-gags known as lazzi. Lonsdale and scene partner Jane Rabinowitz create a classic 'opposites attract' scenario in their piece "Pardon," which is pronounced in the French fashion (meaning "excuse me") because their encounter begins with a chance bump in the street. Here we get to see two utterly different characters, both single, prepare for a night on the town. He's a break-dancer, she's into ballet, and their fascination with each other leads to the inevitable cock-ups. It's perhaps one of the most endearing scenarios of the evening.
The centerpiece and perhaps Aura Curiatlas' signature work is "Newton's Cradle," a dance inspired by the popular table-top toy that doubles as a physics experiment, with balls swinging into each other and creating a seemingly endless series of actions and reactions. In this case, narrative gives way to the basic principles of balance, reciprocal movement, action and reaction, gracefully performed and very thought-provoking. Gavaler and Plehal have refined this piece to perfection, and it is enough to watch the pair of them move together and draw their energy from each other's choreography.
Like a growing number of companies, Aura Curiatlas draws its talent from all over the USA, and they only rehearse and perform as their busy schedules allow. With this geographically-challenged situation it's inevitable that some members need to move on while others join up. During their recent performance at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C., Aura Curiatlas held auditions for more dancers and netted two talented performers, Lauren Johns and Tyler Herman-the latter a member of DC's local Commedia troupe, Faction of Fools.
If you missed them this past Spring, don't worry - Aura Curiatlas will return soon, and with a new and newly invigorating program, fresh with new faces onstage. They are a crew to watch, and watch closely, in the years ahead.
Running Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, with one intermission.
Dream Logic was performed at the Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg, Virginia on May 9, 2015.
For more information about Aura Curiatlas and future performances please visit: