Luck Plush "Punk Yankees"

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October 24th 2009
The Dance Center 1306 S. Michigan
Chicago IL

Lucky Plush stole much more than the hearts and minds of The Dance Center patrons. Julia Roads is a raging kleptomaniac. Punk Yankees irreverently samples the dance world; poking fun at dance cannons, stealing choreography from local artists, and appropriating a slew generas and forms ranging from internet viral video to clogging.

Lucky Plush capitalizes on the constellation of crises surrounding ownership. Dancers and objects are lined up; linearly marking time and progression. Bodies stack on top of each other. The dancers play a game of follow the leader; each dancer aping the personality as well as the physical and vocal qualities of the dancer immediately before them. They literally echo the cries of frustrated of artists. "My idea! My labor! My money!"

The company effectively punks out the audience by opening the show in a mock post-show discussion, essentially performing the crossing of the fourth wall without actually acknowledging the audience. The "discussion" abstracts. Everyone is talking at once. Dance buzz words like "live bodies" are tossed around in the furry. The company is suddenly dancing in cannon, throwing themselves from their folding chairs to standing, and sinking back. The sample of choreography is immediately recognizable as Ohad Naharin's "Minus 16." Hubbard Street regularly brings down the house with this piece which breaks down the barrier between performer and audience. Lucky plush makes ironic use of Naharin's movement, transitioning out of the post-show audience discussion format into the abstract world of modern dance. The dancers sing out a declaration that they have learned this dance by watching it on YouTube.

When the question, "Where does it start?" is interjected, a duets begins. The dancers call on the the gods and goddesses of the dance world(beginning with Louis the 14th) as canonical images fly on to the screen behind them. The dancers, one of them David Gerber with whom I took a college course in "Western Dance History," perform samples of movement that character the contributions of the figures they invoke as unified phrases.

Rhoads presents her most successful mash-ups in act2. Against the backdrop of hilarious and sometimes emotionally gripping original mash-ups of video and music, the movement stands alone and it often successfully becomes something more that a collection of its parts. Sometimes the movement is intentionally less unified and more like a dance collage: Cunningham torsos, Alvin Ailey arms, Peter Carpenter shaking, Martha Graham contractions, Trisha Brown hands. Luck Plush references the living and the dead, people in the audience, works that premiered at The Dance Center. No figure is too personal or elite to for the thievery of the choreographer.

The show culminates into a dance celebration complete with a disco ball and DJ party songs like Michael Jackson's "Thriller," "the Hustle," and "Macarena." A mash-up of Beyonce Knowles' "Single Ladies" and a performance of its famously appropriated dance closes the performance. Beyonce's choreography for "Single Ladies" was taken almost verbatim from a Bob Fosse dance. The music video is an internet sensation. Thousands of people have learned the choreography from watching the video on YouTube and then posted their selves performing the choreography.
As the dancers bow, credits are projected and roll up a black screen (movie theater style) behind them.

Punk Yankees makes it explicit that the history of concert dance is a history carried forward by appropriation. From this point of departure the audience is inundated by multi-media dance spectacle that amplifies an ethos which may well define our culture and the locus of modern dance. This performance simultaneously caters to dance insiders and to strangers of modern dance. There is so much going on in this dance that I have yet to touch on. Catch some of it on