If viewers at Malashock/Raw3 sat any closer, we would be wiping sweat off our faces and asking John Malashock for an ice pack.
The stripped-down series is back for its third installment, this time in the company’s studio at Dance Place, with three premieres about taking risks, fighting bullies, and an uncooperative universe, and all of them feature exciting partnering.
Malashock’s “Uneasy Surrender,” is the stunner. The wild and wonderful composition for seven dancers has your eyes bouncing all over the place as dancers fight an unwinnable fight with the world.
It opens with dancers in a line, whirling as a big blade that can’t be stopped. Blythe Barton is the heroine at the center who you cheer for. As hands grab onto her neck, she clenches her teeth and won’t quit.
The action never ceases as the group breaks into twos and threes. Women and men approach each other with zombie eyes, ride on each other’s backs, and break free of weirdo ballroom sequences, only to be turned into human pretzels.
And of course, Malashock includes sequences where the tiniest woman gets tossed around like a football – and lifted straight up, as a when Nicholas Strasburg, who is flat on his back, grips the fearless Stephanie Harvey at the ankles and sends her upward.
The resulting image is that of a seedling bursting upward out of the earth, or a young woman cast out into the dangerous universe. No matter, it seems impossible and will be burned into memory. And I can still see a wide-eyed woman who tries to escape the chaos, and her sweaty finger prints left at our feet before she is dragged away.
“Don’t try this at home,” is the mantra viewers should repeat throughout this program. The choreography is physically demanding and risky, and this troupe eats it up.
Strasburg, who now sports scraggly hair and thick sideburns, appears immune to skin burns and bruising. In all three dances, he pounds his muscled body into the floor.
In Michael Mizerany’s “Bully,” Strasburg portrays the intimidating creep that everyone knows and fears. The work coincides with Anti-Bullying Awareness Month and creates a nightmarish saga of junior and high school relationships.
Intimidating times in the locker room and shower come to mind, as do mixed-up feelings about wanting to be liked. Strasburg is evil incarnate as he kicks and throws a smaller yet receptive Andrew Holmes, and their interactions become more and more dangerous and disturbing.
A group of women acts as the Greek chorus, blatantly holding up cards that spell out “BULLY.” Often they operate as cheer leaders who seem to change teams on a whim. They blow whistles and crouch down like sprinters. They slap faces and finally intervene in a way that is far more compelling than those cards.
Guest choreographer Regina Klenjoski’s “Splinter” is a jerky piece not fully realized. Odd purple clothes and numbers suggest men and women in a prison. Sequences jump from awkward mini-duets filled with square shapes and angled arms to nuzzling, twirls and spidery limbs.
Justin Viernes is most confident with quick jazzy beats. Unison segments ease the pain of it all, such as a lovely scoop and travel phrase that starts with a kick and rolls until the entire group joins in.
RAW/3 continues this weekend at Dance Place. Go experience the storytelling and excellent partnering up close, and take in views of the city from the second story windows in the distance.