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Wolfe and friends thrive in a skewed universe

March 05, 2007|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

Fashionistas, take notice: Meg Wolfe, bouncing around in a short toreador jacket, vest and loose-fitting workout pants, her face sporting a scarlet Venetian mask, has the image thing down. She's also got great choreographic cred, which, along with her quirky, compelling dancing, was in ample evidence Friday at Highways Performance Space.

Part yogi, part Zorro, this nimble gal with the gamine hairdo opened the one-hour program with "Appropriation," a short improvised solo from 2005. Set to taped Puccini fragments and Leo Kottke's crisp guitar pluckings, the whimsical piece featured Wolfe fiddling -- with her nose, a step chair, the mask -- and circling the floor like a madcap matador.

Fluidity dominated the program's video premiere, "Down to the Hollow," beautifully shot and edited by Mikki del Monico. Wolfe, clad in black, with only her face, arms and bare feet visible, became a kinetic Avedon portrait, all casually dexterous prowess. Another new Del Monico video, "Ghost Dance," was more elaborate. Moving through a weird, Turner-like landscape (Patricia Wheeler's wooden plank walkways and computer photography provided dreamy colors), Wolfe also gamboled into a bucolic scene gone awry, one that included text (like "war criminal") and nods to Abu Ghraib.

The evening's centerpiece, "The Return of Captain Ladyvoice" -- created by the choreographer with Gregory Barnett, Jeremy Hahn and Christine Suarez -- was billed as a "fantasy of post-apocalyptic renewal." Maria de los Angeles "Cuca" Esteves and the Bapudi Collective composed sound collages that riffed on astronomy, soured relationships, religious theory and '50s doo-wop, with Esteves manning keyboards.

Chaos ruled in this 35-minute premiere, a skewed universe where men wore layered skirts and dresses and their outstretched arm motifs and finger-pointing yielded to virtuosic hip-swaying. Barnett proved especially adroit, his body periodically thrashing with full-tilt trembling, while Suarez gave chase to Wolfe -- a chase that culminated with a little trance spinning. A slow-motion section was particularly appealing: The quartet, as if walking through molasses, came close to one another but never touched, the disconnect theme all too real.

Accordion bits accompanied the group in petulant mode one moment, marathon-dancing form the next. Wolfe, decked out in windowpane trousers, housedress and apron, resembled an escapee from a Douglas Sirk movie skittering across the floor on her knees only to rise again.

More provocative than profound, the piece nevertheless had a determined propulsiveness. The body keeps on keeping on.

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