Dancenoise program takes form in an anything-can-happen format

August 06, 1993|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,Contributing Writer

A theatrical work-in-progress can change radically from one rehearsal to the next. Cast members toss ideas, props and sometimes each other around freely. Improvisation is the rule, as a piece gradually assumes the fixed form it will have on opening night.

This open-to-anything workshop format has always been the case for Maryland Art Place's annual performance program, "Diverse Works," which gives public performances this weekend the Theatre Project.

Visiting directors come to Baltimore for three weeks of workshops in which participating local actors, musicians, artists, dancers and writers collaboratively create what we'll see on stage. This is work so new that the ink hasn't dried on the page; indeed, there is often no page. And it's generally so cross-disciplinary that it's best to call it performance art rather than force it into theater or dance categories.

This year's program is being directed by Dancenoise, a two-woman group from New York. Anne Iobst and Lucy Sexton, who began working together on the New York club circuit in 1983, combine dance, theater and political cabaret in their work. Their pop culture satires have been featured at the Whitney Biennial and the Serious Fun series at Lincoln Center.

Both are wary of applying labels to what they do, but they acknowledge the feminist content implicit any time they take to a stage.

"That's always at the core of it," says Lucy during a rehearsal break at the Theatre Project. "You have two strong women on stage, and the very nature of what we do is that there is a lack of boundaries. There is a sense of possibility -- that anything can happen."

tTC Increasing the sense that anything can happen during their workshops with the 14 local participants is that Dancenoise hadn't previously overseen such a work-in-progress. So they came to Baltimore, auditioned to select the company, and opened their ears to ideas.

"Everything in this show is from Baltimore," observes Anne, meaning everything from the props to the themes.

That these two dancers are directing folks who are mainly non-dancers doesn't faze them, because, as Lucy says, "We're more interested in how people move than in choreography as done by traditional dancers. It involves the person's energy as a performer on stage, how they express themselves."

Lucy adds that she's found it interesting to observe how their wide open "workshop is turning into a show."

Both emphasized they were still shaping the various vignettes. The thematic and choreographic linkages between those vignettes hadn't yet been finalized, so they were reluctant to talk about the show in specific terms.

However, some time spent watching a rehearsal confirmed their stated fondness for building vignettes around popular songs and pop cultural imagery.

In one rehearsal bit, Janis Joplin croons "Summertime" as three people seated at cafe tables repetitively pour water from bottles to glasses and back again. Meanwhile, five other performers slither along a side wall. A minute later, the "Pink Panther" theme plays as performers wipe up spilled water with paper towels. Then there's a cry: "You'll wake the baby!" It's pretty funny considering the two baby dolls in question are resting inside stereo speakers.

Or take another vignette, in which a performer at a microphone intones in Emergency Broadcast System style about an Emergency Pregnancy System. In the same bit, three other performers walk out wearing toy rabbit-topped hats. And an instructional tape suggests that it be played as you prepare for bed, because "Your subconscious mind hears everything."

Although audiences seeing the work-in-progress this weekend may have a difficult time understanding it on a conscious level, their subconscious minds will probably be working overtime.

"Diverse Works '93"

What: Annual Maryland Art Place program, featuring Dancenoise

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.

Tickets: $8, $6 for MAP members, students and artists

Call: (410) 962-8565

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