Miller Rothlein digs into stereotypes

Menace and goddess: Chandra Moss (front)
Menace and goddess: Chandra Moss (front) (and Paul Struck in Miller Rothlein's "Forbidden Creature Virgin Whore," a serious exploration of role-playing and archetypes.)
Posted: November 17, 2013

Dancer/choreographer Amanda Miller keeps refining her choreographic chops, researching new work with a small group of dancers and theater artists that includes her partner, videographer Tobin Rothlein, and, in this case, Kristin Kest, a sci-fi illustrator turned dramaturg.

The company, approaching its 10th year and now called simply Miller Rothlein, opened Forbidden Creature Virgin Whore Thursday evening at the White Space at Crane Arts Old School, where they have been in residence.

Company regular Paul Struck aptly dances the role of one of four archetypes represented, the Forbidden Creature. The gender is questionable, but the menacing character is clear: Don't mess with me. Costumed by Maggie Baker in a black waist-cinching girdle, a halter bralet, and a skirt with side slits, he spikes his feet down the runway, vogueing with exaggerated aggression. The music is from selections by British composer Pete Wyer.

Chandra Moss, as Domestic Goddess in purple ruffled panties and crinolines, and Dana Pleakis in Lolita pink as Virgin Whore, take the runway like rarefied flamingos. Beau Hancock, in full beard, yanked-up green jeans, and suspenders, looks downright Ozarkian as Everyman.

Hancock pulls silver shoes (how princely) from his jeans and straps them on Moss, giving her a few twirls in a tango. The choreography never goes where you next expect it. In one of the few moments the four are together on the runway "stage," they bend and weave through one another's arms like branches of trees in a storm. We are all seated down the sides of the runway, as at a fashion show, intimate, invited voyeurs.

Moss becomes a beast of burden, carrying a dominant Hancock off the runway on her back in a slow crawl. Struck pleasures himself shamelessly in the background. To Wyer's watery rendition of "Volare," Pleakis unsnaps her corset, offering her unspoiled self to Hancock, but he turns abruptly away. It's one of several funny/ironic moments in this serious exploration of role-playing and stereotyping. Miller, who danced with Pennsylvania Ballet, says that for each archetype, they looked at story ballets such as Swan Lake, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty for starting points, and you see little hints throughout.

Hancock swaggers, slouches, twerks, and suddenly bursts into intimidating, tight-fisted moves at the audience. Moss removes domestic objects (including a rubber doll) cleverly hidden in her costume. In the final moments, they lie on the floor, slo-mo pulling each other end-over-end and tucking themselves between each other's legs, as if perpetually giving birth to one another.


Additional performances: 7:30 p.m.m Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the White Space at Crane Arts Old School, 1417 N. 2d St. Tickets and information: www.millerrothlein.org

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