Squeeze – Psophonia Dance Company

All you need is love… right?

Perhaps, but in their new work Squeeze, which was presented at Barnevelder last weekend, Psophonia Dance Company articulates we are under pressure to “need” a lot more. A big house, more stuff, the latest, greatest, and… a ShamWow? No wait, that’s the rug that is being yanked out from under our feet as poor spending habits finally catch up with us.

The show has visual and auditory appeal. Black, white, and red all over, the costuming pops with graphic prints and bright solids. Lighting designer, Jaime Melendez supports this motif with splashes of warm hues, choosing appropriate moments to cast deep shadows with stark white lighting. And the score, featuring everything from Beatles tunes to Soujla Boy and mixed by Jeremiah DiMatteo, is equally playful and fetching.

During portions of Squeeze, co-directors/choreographers Sophia Torres and Sonia Noriega are gently wagging their fingers but in a non-discriminatory way toward themselves, the powers that be, the audience. In a swipe at creditors, the evening’s ringmaster/narrator played by Toni Valle, describes the convoluted conditions upon which the audience can secure the return of their money, should they wish to do so following the performance.

But, Squeeze isn’t all about finances. There’s a smidgen of sensuality as the dancers parade onto and across the stage in a Vegasy opener. And, a touch of technology — the audience is invited to text or, for the tragically hip, “tweet” during a brief intermission. Also there’s a “healthy” dose of paranoia as a few sneezes and the threat of swinish germs undermine the dancers’ ability to connect with one another.

These big ideas, however, seem to appear and then fizzle as metaphors. There’s the tantalizing proposition that we’ve been invited to a three-ring circus, but the references disappear by Act II. There is an underutilized set piece shaped like a house. There are tomatoes begging to be squashed that remain untouched until the finale, where they meet their fate without even a squish. Torres and Noriega are tossing concepts at the audience without follow through. By the conclusion, I am not certain if they are commenting or simply caving to a deficit in attention by squeezing this many hot topics into a one-hour show.

Guest artist, Valle, well-known for her own dancing and choreography is more actor than dancer in Squeeze. She delivers convincing monologues, her strong stage presence a plus. The theatrics, however, dominate the production, sometimes eclipsing the choreography. Exceptions include a clever section in which the dancers partner orange bathmats, sliding them from place to place with their hands, feet, and other body parts, as well as the aforementioned sneeze segment. A moment, featuring  dancer Stephanie Beall, also stands out. She is revealed on a stool, pulls an imaginary chord, alters her position in darkness, and is revealed again. It is simple but effective. Torres, herself, is a welcome addition in the small ensemble. She carves broad strokes with her movement, distinctive when she appears as a soloist, but blending well with performers, Scarlett Barnes, Stephanie Beall, Naphtali  Beyleveld, and Tapley Whaley otherwise.

On opening night more than one group of late-arriving patrons was allowed to cross in front of the performers throughout the evening, even with only 5 minutes remaining in the production. This is disappointing because one would hope that on the lips of audience members, as they filter from the theatre, would be the performance itself.

Though Squeeze is inconsistent in shape and direction, it succeeds as an entertaining portrayal of current events. It does not enlighten with answers, nor does it cause deep introspection or questioning. Rather, it holds up a mirror. I recognized the image and walked away nodding.

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston

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Nichelle

Nichelle balances careers as a dancer, instructor, writer, and mother. She is a seasoned performer whose strength lies in bringing dramatic

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