DANCE REVIEW | 'FEEDFORWARD'
A Meditation on Sports, Wacky Mascot and All
Nan Melville for The New York Times
From left, Mauriah Kraker, Jo Morris, Kyle Pleasant and Johanna Kirk in “feedforward.”
By CLAUDIA LA ROCCO
Published: October 25, 2007
Your endorphins give a little jump just looking at the set of David Neumann’s “feedforward,” which opened on Tuesday at Dance Theater Workshop. Then you scan the cast, and the thought of the delicious Neal Medlyn hopping about ridiculously in this abstract stadium world of bright colors and white rectangles makes them jump even higher.
Mr. Medlyn delivers, as both participant and broadcaster. Every sports organization should have the opportunity to enlist him and Matt Citron for play-by-play duty. And every dancer should have the opportunity to perform in Mr. Neumann’s work (and help create it, as these dancers are credited for having done), even if it’s hard to picture a better lineup than the one that includes these cast members as well as Will Rawls, Chris Yon, Lily Baldwin and others.
By now the line on Mr. Neumann is well established: He is the smart joker of dance. What’s not said as often is how deeply felt and deeply moving his work can be. “Feedforward” is no sneering gloss on dumb jocks; it’s an elegant, spatially adept meditation from someone who knows well the power and the absurdities of sport, as well as the primal nature of its connection to an unmistakably American sense of the world.
And yes, relax, it’s wildly funny: Andrew Dinwiddie, resplendent in a gold bomber jacket and spandex shorts, oscillating his pelvis or crouched and staring out from just behind Mr. Yon’s ear as the competitors face off; Ms. Baldwin calling in to a radio show to give her interpretation of Taryn Griggs’s aggressively deadpan movement style; Kyle Pleasant as the lecherous squirrel mascot, complete with entirely inappropriate anatomy. Really, what more need be said?
And then of course there’s Mr. Medlyn’s extended inner monologue as he channels a nerve-racked pitcher psyching himself up on the mound. The stage is flooded green, recorded crickets are heard. Is this the big leagues or a farm team? Astonishingly, as Mr. Medlyn reaches up to a video of the moon at the end of the solo, after laughing for many minutes you suddenly want to cry.
This is its biggest swing, but “feedforward” is always making these adjustments, the tempo and mood shifts coming unexpectedly but inevitably, as they do in games. Karinne Keithley’s text, surging from satire to poignancy and back, enriches the changeable sensibility.
Who knows why some movements are heartbreaking, others hilarious? Who knows how Mr. Neumann manages to pinpoint each? And how on earth did he realize that having four onstage trombonists augment a score by Eve Beglarian was the only possible way to go? Mysteries, all — miraculous ones.