Travesty Dance Group/Houston’s The Recycle Club
Not a single word of this review is original. They have all been used before. Not much was new last Saturday night when Travesty Dance Group/Houston staged The Recycle Club, either. But that was kind of the point of this hip “hybrid happening.”
During a pre-show improv, the Barnevelder stage looked like the scene of a rummage sale. Dancers milled around, choosing costume pieces from a vast assortment of clothing cast-offs allotted for donation to The Salvation Army following the performance. Opinions were taken into account as the performers solicited advice from the audience and one another. When sufficiently layered in mismatched regalia the company nestled into place, disappearing among the carpet of garments on the floor. The array would later be cleverly buffeted upstage as the dancers gathered the pieces like wool sweaters collecting static-adhered socks.
The hour-long performance event consisted of mostly reworked, reused, reinvented, recovered, retrieved, and revisited material from the last 12 years of the Travesty Dance-Houston canon. Choreographer Karen Stokes and company were irREfutably enjoying themselves. They simpered during a remixed “Bayou” rap and an accelerating, gesticulative “RE-Chant.” Thumping beats, newly wedded to phrases of movement from previously debuted compositions, invigorated the cast and brought a new vitality to the pieces, as did Steven Wallace’s re-imagined lighting designs. A segment titled “The Big Mix” wove together seven works seamlessly, though placards were used to divulge their stitching. Otherwise who would have known that these energetic, droll fragments were cut from different cloth?
The Recycle Club cast extended this night to include guest artists, Roberta Stokes and Farrell Dyde. Primary movers and shakers of Houston’s early dance scene, the pair revisited their 1984 collaboration, Double Vision. During a spontaneous duet, the elder Stokes mischievously announced, “older dancers should be heard and not seen.” Dyde astutely veiled his head with a stool and exited in the section’s final moments. The duo may be “recycled dancers” but their distinguished performances were anything but.
Aside from the post-performance revelry, which included culinary delights, drinks, swing dancing, and a splendid recycled-clothing art installation, the evening’s high point was the You & I finale, set to the bouncy 60s tune, Happy Together. Dancer Mechelle Flemming was delightful as she fluttered over her heart’s desire, boisterously danced by Richard Lyders-Gustafson. The doll-like, floppy, frolicking pas de deux gave way to a spirited and enchanting closer.
Stokes’ signature vocal compositions dotted the repertory and a brief film, also created by Stokes, established the program as a collage of mixed media. The latter captured the ensemble as they invaded a Houston recycling center in white overalls and hardhats. A playful preamble, the film incorporated sight gags (including an entertaining SMART car as clown car stunt) and accelerated motion, recalling the silent movie genre. Across every element of the happening, Travesty’s collaborators embraced a casual, genial atmosphere. The audience truly felt like members of the club.
Normally, an artist is rather careful to avoid recycling ideas. With The Recycle Club, Karen Stokes reclaimed her own. All was sorted and in the right bins for an evening teeming with clever fun.
Reprinted from Dance Source Houston