It was mostly business as usual at the Southern Theater Saturday night. There was no specific mention of the financial crisis that threatens to darken its stage -- just an appeal from Kate Nordstrum, the theater's external relations director and music curator, to help keep the Southern's mission alive.
Still, the looming deadline was no doubt on everyone's mind in the three-quarters-full theater. Would this show be its last? A whopping $400,000 is needed by month's end to keep the doors open.
The evening featured Amelia Reeber, Jumatatu Poe and Judith Howard through the SCUBA Touring Network for Dance, an exchange between the Southern, Seattle's Velocity Dance Theater, San Francisco's ODC Theater and Philadelphia Dance Projects. The purpose is to help choreographers take their work on the road, a rare opportunity for many dance artists.
Seattle's Reeber opened with "this is a forgery." Dressed in a short black dress with bandages around her shins, Reeber revealed an idiosyncratic style defined by intentionally awkward movement akin to a stop-action film. Video images of a cat, someone in a bear costume and an alter-ego offering life instruction completed the scene. The work felt impenetrable, like a personal ritual inspired by past wrongs. Some clarity emerged as Reeber unraveled the bandages through a delicate series of steps, but the secrets were ultimately hers to keep.
Ritual played a role in Poe's "Flight Attendants," but much differently. The Philadelphia-based choreographer deconstructed the increasingly bizarre experience of air travel. Ten audience members sat in rows onstage while Poe danced among them, his arms fluidly reinterpreting emergency-exit instructions. Joined by dynamo Michele Tantoco (via surprise entrance in a suitcase), Poe shared his wonderfully scrappy, peanut-fueled and physically inventive vision of how we see -- and don't see -- people in service industries.
Twin Cities choreographer Judith Howard's "Cape Dance" closed the show. As advertised, cloaks were worn, tossed, stomped upon and shown off by Sam Johnson, Naomi Joy, Tara King, Theresa Madaus, April Sellers, Monica Thomas and Morgan Thorson. In addition, ice blocks were hurled, chain-sawed and licked. It was dance with a sly Dadaist bent, nonsensical but also completely dedicated to its purposeful irreverence. There are places meant to showcase this kind of wild-card work, and the Southern Theater is among them.