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Faces from Gardenia | Photo Luk Moonsaert Faces from Gardenia | Photo Luk Moonsaert

Montclair State University’s Peak Performances

Faces from Gardenia | Photo Luk Moonsaert

Faces from Gardenia | Photo Luk Monsaert

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any loyal dance-goers often focus their attention on performances within Manhattan and Brooklyn. But Montclair State University’s unique series Peak Performances gives us more than one reason to consider a short bus or train ride to Jersey.

This past weekend, I traveled to the Alexander Kasser Theater to see the US Premiere of Gardenia, a collaboration between Alain Platel artistic director of Les Ballets C de la B and theater director Frank van Laecke–both influenced by renowned Belgian playwright Vanessa Van Durme. Gardenia is more abstract theater piece than dance. But a close look reveals that movement is certainly at the core of this tale of transgender performers and their closing cabaret club. Platel’s trained eye for space, gesture and physicality brings a richness to a story that would be quite difficult to convey only in dialogue. From the opening scene I am most interested in the postures of the cast (all in their fifties and sixties, save one) and how they carry themselves in precise characterization. They start dressed as men in suits and slacks. Soon, they are decked out in sparkly dresses, wigs, the works. A series of frozen poses conveys the many moods, dramas and shenanigans of this unlikely family.

The tale of Gardenia is surely one of sorrow and strength. The only extended “dance” moment occurs when the young boy, actor Hendrik Lebon moves seductively and frantically through the girls who sway in place. To me, this explosion of choreography is the piece’s fulcrum: an admittance of identity. The boy struggles. Luckily, he is able to fall into the safety net of those who have discovered their sexual freedom before him. Their solidarity as a group lets us know he will be ok.

Gardenia brings the glitz of stage performance to shield the darkness of what often goes on backstage. Anyone who has worked in the business recognizes this humanity, transvestite or not.

Peak Performance’s calendar gets better in the coming weeks. Upcoming, MSU will present Israeli born but New-York based LeSaar the Company. Following LeSaar, Danceworks will feature the work of José Limón.  Tickets are inexpensive at $15, and the bus leaves right from Port Authority.

What a good excuse to get out of the big city.

For more information visit http://www.peakperfs.org.

Post by Emeri Fetzer

Emeri is Managing Editor of DancePulp.com and a full–time freelance performer. Emeri most recently danced in Punchdrunk's 'Sleep No More' NYC and in original choreography for PITH Dance. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, with BA’s in Dance Choreography and English from Goucher College, Emeri loves to marry writing with a strong passion for movement. She is also a regular contributor for Theater Development Fund's online magazine TDF Stages.

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