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Dance Review

Tongue Presses Points That Are Anything but 'Irrelevant'


Tongue specializes in visions of the liberated, fearless, articulate body, aiming for a physicality so free it verges on the anarchic and anti-choreographic.

But as much as director Stephanie Gilliland loves to reap the whirlwind with her nine-dancer, locally based troupe, she manages to reinvent the process each season. So her "Ridiculous, Irrelevant and Immaterial" program at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica on Thursday developed engaging strategies for sustaining her style of passionate, varied, pop-influenced athleticism.

In "Tertium Quid" and the videotaped "Elevator Dance," Gilliland relied on radical juxtapositions between dance parody, partnering experiments, quasi-drama-tic confrontations and full-out technical display, with the opening and closing elevator doors in the latter forming a curtain that defined the beginning and end of the contrasting events on view.

"Tertium Quid" began with a nondance prologue: a parade of trash fashion including a garbage-bag skirt, a grocery-bag top, a cape made from magazine cutouts and a tutu assembled from classified ads--all accessorized with panels of rich, gleaming fabric, a little black leather and plenty of bare flesh.

But the dancing began only when everyone returned in gray pants outfits. From here on, Gilliland offered everything from deeply sculpted movement meditations to high-impact energy explosions: a cavalcade of contemporary dance options.

Influenced by hip-hop but cleverly fragmenting and re-imagining its methodology, "Big Manuel" used the constraints of limited space (a square of light center stage) to pump up the intricacy and intensity of Tongue-dancing. As usual, Patrick Damon Rago continually seemed to suspend physical laws with dancing of awesome buoyancy, control and detail.

Among the other Tongue virtuosos, Holly Johnston looked especially powerful in "Tertium Quid" and Caroline Aizawa danced "Big Manuel" with a disarming sense of fantasy, as if she were dreaming up all this frenetic activity.

* Tongue repeats "Ridiculous, Irrelevant and Immaterial" tonight at 8:30 and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. $15. (310) 315-1459.

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