Another show worth seeing during a busy dance week–my review in today’s Chronicle:
“Those who think postmodern dance sounds about as fun as a root canal need to get themselves to ODC Theater tonight to see the final performance of David Gordon’s “Dancing Henry Five.” Yes, those Judson Church rebels of 1960s New York could be an ascetic, left-brained bunch (“No to spectacle!” Yvonne Rainer famously railed), but Gordon was always one of their wittiest members, and his delight in the simple magic of theater is fresh as ever. “Henry Five” was an instant hit in Manhattan three years ago, and it was both a pleasure and a provocation Thursday, when it stopped on national tour as the anchor of ODC’s newly reenergized presenting program.
Watching this hourlong reduction of “Henry V,” you remember how much of what we consider “postmodern” — the reflexive calling to awareness of how a work of art is working — is latent in Shakespeare, and appreciate how Gordon has run with it. After all, Gordon’s narrator (and wife), Valda Setterfield, is only quoting the Bard’s own prologue when she beseeches the audience to use their imaginations, then adds that in this production “we have only seven dancers, three dummies and me.”
The fun is in watching this cast — clad in rugby gear — bring the story to life using only a ladder, folding chairs and cardboard-looking placards. Their soundtrack is William Walton’s cinematic score, interspersed with dialogue from the Laurence Olivier movie version, and Gordon’s own text. “We’re going to have to move this along pretty fast,” the grand matron Setterfield says, providing cues like “Here follows a short court rubber ball dance” in appropriately Shakespearean intonation.”
Click here for the full review.