By Diversionary Guest Blogger
[manhandled] is the story of two men in an unsteady alliance. One man wants to leave, and the other man wants him to stay. Michael Mizerany’s strength as a choreographer is his storytelling. Here he tells an age-old story of how people relate to one another. In this instance, his story involves two men in romantic relationship. However, the push/pull dynamic can apply across all relationship, intimate and otherwise.
The piece begins in silence with lighting mimicking the blinds of a residential window. For me, the horizontal bars morphed into vertical ones. The resulting emotion is entrapment, not tranquil domesticity. The dancers begin as bare as is polite in public. Though both dancers have Adonis-like bodies, the tenor of the piece is not sensual but more about power and control. The dancers begin almost naked to one another. Eventually, more clothing gets added, more protection, more separation.
My favorite part of the piece is when one dancer surfs on top of the other. One man stands on the other’s chest and attempts to ride whatever wave they are on together. Talking to the dancing surfer after the performance, he said standing on an uneven body in the dark without a focal point was a challenge. In that way, his experience echoed the character he was playing who could not find sturdy footing or a steady gaze to leave the partnership that was not serving him.
The next piece choreographed by Bradley Lundberg, Tous les Mêmes, provided some comic relief and my favorite music of the evening. The pas de deux played with the motif of power and control by using props. The man and woman alternated possession of a chair, a hat, and a vest. The man began and ended with all the goodies, but the woman had a field day with them in between.
The third piece, Via Dolorosa, returned to a tone of solemnity. In previous incarnations, the dancer was a man. This time Mizerany cast a woman. For heathens out there (like myself) who might not know the titular reference, Via Dolorosa is the Way of the Cross, the path that Jesus walked to his death. It is not a barrel of laughs, nor is it completely desolate. The overall feeling is motion, constant motion, and strangely softness. This softness is most striking when Via Dolorosa ends and Man Clan begins.
That transition was my favorite moment of the night. Man Clan is a gladiatorial exhibition of masculinity. Whereas the dancers in [manhandled]added clothing, the dancers in Man Clan proceed to lose their clothing. Power and control becomes overtly sexual, though it skirts the sensual. Mizerany explores different ways to be a man and to relate as a man. The pieces reflect Mizerany’s interest in how men relate to one another and more universally how humans relate to one another.
Mizerany’s choreography is featured in Airline Highway at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center playing August 14-September 3. More work is in the Full Monty at the OB Playhouse running from September 23-November 6. The multitalented Mizerany also co-wrote Bedrooms & Boyfriends that will show at the Urban Center at ion theatre.