BODYTRAFFIC makes an impressive debut (Philadelphia Inquirer)

April 5, 2014

By Nancy G. Heller


The Los Angeles-based dance company BodyTraffic made an impressive Philadelphia debut Thursday night at the Annenberg Center. Established in 2007 by Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, the troupe consists of 10 performers whose virtuosity and versatility were showcased in this program of three short works.

First on the bill was "And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square . . . ," by Barak Marshall. The title evokes Marc Chagall, and the music is a pastiche of humorous Yiddish classics, traditional Yemenite melodies, and romantic Gypsy tunes. But the overall theme, male/female relationships, is often appalling.

In one vignette, a group of women, rejected by the man whose attention they had sought, are dumped onto their backs with their feet propped up on a bench, reduced to a row of high heels. At another point, they're pulled onstage by ropes, to the recorded bleating of sheep. Even when three men recite luscious Middle Eastern recipes in an attempt to seduce their female counterparts, the situation devolves into violence.

Next was "Kollide," an abstract piece choreographed by Kyle Abraham. Here, the evocative music of Hildur Guonadttir and Valgeir Sigurdsson was the perfect complement to Dan Scully's handsome set - five vertical shapes at the back of the stage, suggesting Japanese screens.

Abraham's work merges ballet and modern-dance techniques; often, the dancers' upper and lower bodies move in different styles. A signature turn with hands clasped above the head, the torso undulations of Miguel Perez and Guzmn Rosado, and a spectacular duet by Perez and Yusha-Marie Sorzano were noteworthy.

It was impossible not to grin throughout Richard Siegal's subversively inventive "o2Joy," performed not to Beethoven's well-worn theme but to recordings by American jazz greats. Highlights included Rosado's charming, Broadway-style solo, and Andrew Wojtal's campy lip-synching to Ella Fitzgerald's scat syllables.