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A Free-Form Approach to Denizens of the Dance World

November 22, 1987|JANICE ARKATOV

"This is not a dance concert," Tom Crocker said. "It's theater ."

Crocker is one-half of Blue Palm (the other half is Jackie Planeix), a performance duo based in France and opening Friday at the Wallenboyd in "Amour."

"We work from an instinctual approach," said Crocker. "We're not part of any school (although both studied with ballet master Maurice Bejart in Brussels), any dance dogma. We throw away barriers and definitions--and create our own aesthetic."

On Sundays, they will also be presenting "Dance Talks!," which had a brief run here last year at the Saxon-Lee Gallery.

"Dance Talks!," he said, "is divided into three parts. The first is a series of (French and English) texts written in dressing rooms and airports--when we were sweaty and tired; it's the endless fatigue of being a dancer. So they're sensual flights on a dancer's state of being: the physical, colorful, passionate stories hidden in those muscles. Dancers are always training, getting more refined--but it's not put into words. That's what this is about. We discovered ourselves writing in dancers' language, and the words lead us into movement.

"The second part is 'The Phenomenal International Blue Palm Alphabet From A to Z.' It's about the dance denizens, people of the dance world: their idiosyncrasies, obsessions, pretenses, the behind-the-scenes things that are not said--all lovingly mocking, not a painful confessional. The third part is 'Space Angels,' an homage to three angels: Nijinsky, Isadora Duncan and Jack Kerouac--each dancers in their own right and motivated by passion. So we put them out in space, where they're dancing, singing and laughing."

"Amour," which bowed this year in France, "is about Jackie and me," he said. "We're very much a couple, very much in love and have been for a long time (13 years). So this allowed us to move into a world of play and imagery; it's a an area we like. It's love not concerned with obsession and destruction, but playful and creative.

"Where 'Dance Talks!' is concerned with the dance world, 'Amour' is about love, love on parade. We wrote lies, stories and raps--then cut them down and put them to movement. They're fast, funny, hypnotic, sensual and spicy. We call them love stews."

Also back is "A Child's Christmas in Wales," a holiday musical adapted from the Dylan Thomas poem by Jeremy Brooks and Adrian Mitchell. It opens this weekend at the Garden Grove Theatre with Daniel Bryan Cartmell directing.

"It's based on experiences (Thomas) had as a child with his family and childhood friends in Swansea, South Wales," said Cartmell, "from opening presents to Christmas dinner and telling stories. It also deals very much with the Welsh magic: spirits and ghosts. And there's plenty of song-and-dance, Christmas music and Welsh music. But some of it was hard to theatricalize. For instance, there's a description of a park--but what goes on in the park is left open to the imagination. So the lines we're using are not necessarily from this poem, but from other Thomas writings."

CRITICAL CROSS FIRE: David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Glengarry Glen Ross" about cutthroat salesmen in a Chicago real estate office opened recently at South Coast Repertory.

Said Sylvie Drake in The Times: "Played to the hilt, it's ruthlessness going full tilt, this reflection of ourselves should make us shiver slightly as we leave the theater. Director David Emmes has provided a staging that's a little too well-bred. His actors speak the words (including the four-letter ones) and go through the motions, but don't always seem to believe them. There's too much restraint. At gut level where it really counts, they lack the needed vulgarity--the crassness, blood, sweat and tears that it takes to really sell us these characters. We miss the heat."

Drama-Logue's Richard Scaffidi enjoyed it more. He wrote: "Working with this tight corp of immensely capable comrades, director David Emmes is able to set in controlled but dizzying motion a play which is funny, pathetic, profane, poetic, damning and ennobling, all at the same time. (It) is Mamet's uncompromising American profile of those epic warriors of petty pursuits: salesmen. They are amoral, relentless self-servers, but by God, they're also resourceful, spirited, individualistic and therefore strangely admirable."

And from Daily Variety's Kathleen O'Steen: "While the structure of Mamet's piece sorely lacks character progression or dimension, director David Emmes has wisely kept the pace brisk, so that a deadly 40-minute first act, that's literally drowned by no movement and a flood of words, quickly becomes forgotten by the time Act II rolls around. It's in this second act that the characters begin to shine."

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