White leotards, a church, and white feather boas?

Written by Alaine

What do white leotards fashioned with zebra print, a historic church, and white feather boas have in common? Well nothing but at Douglas Dunn & Dancers performance of Cleave they do.

The costume: Every male and female dancer wore a white leotard with zebra print on them. Mimi Gross, the costume designer made each leotard a little different either in design or the print itself. My suspicion lies in the fact that she had to fit the dancers according to their body type specifications and hand painted the zebra print. There were two older dancers, one male (Dunn himself) and a female who wore all black with a white feather boa cape and a headdress. The king and queen of the tribe I presume.

A little background info on Douglas Dunn, he used to dance with the Merce Cunningham dance company and the improvisation group, Grand Union.

His movement aesthetic is sculptural, circular, held, technical, athletic, and at times very playful. There were a lot of hopping on one leg, held balances after turns, curved/circular arms. The formations that he created were calculated and then broken up by abrupt moments of fast movements in a succession.

The music was played live by pianist Benjamin Bradham, an accomplished pianist with a resume and accolades to prove it. His performance was very soothing and creating a serene environment in addition to the lighting choices that Carol Mullins displayed.

The narrative of a tribe with a clear distinction between the leaders and the core group of dancers was the sense I got that became the narrative underbelly of the entire piece. There were solo sections, small group sections that were arranged according to gender, and larger group sections. Perhaps a narrative on how tribes in villages function? The men were virtuostic in nature, the movements proved to be explosive and testosterone driven. While the women had sections that showcased their flexibility, balance, and ability to flirt with audiences.

A dance photographer would have an easy time photographing this performance because of all the beautiful shapes that were created. My favorite moment out of the entire piece was a moment when the men were positioned in strong positions in a diagonal fashion and then the women came in and weaved in and out of them. There was a moment where all of them linked hands and they created a long 8 person diagonal that reminded me of vines growing on a tree.

Text was spoken throughout the piece at sporadic times and was unintelligable to me. Perhaps it was pig latin, either way I could not understand it and was incredibly frustrated.

You can catch performances all weekend long. Danspace Project @ St. Marks Church in the East Village.

Douglas Dunn & Dancers
World Premiere
October 8*-10 2009 • [Thu-Sat] • 8:00 PM
Admission: $18 ($12 for Members)

Click here for tickets/reservations

About the author


a global nomad who grew up in cities around the world. A dancer/choreographer/dance educator/make up artist/and part time videographer, her days are spent running around the crosstown, uptown, downtown, Brooklyn and everything in between. She spends her free time watching dance/music/theater performances in the city as well as traveling, dining, shopping (recovering shop-a-holic), spending time with the boyfriend, massages, and applying make up on brides-to-be. A perfect date in NYC involves watching a dance performance at the Joyce Theater, dinner/drinks/dessert at Basta Pasta, and a leisurely stroll through Gramercy Park. For more information about Alaine please visit http://www.alainehanda.com

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