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Jack Anderson

Neil Greenberg: As Time Goes By

Dance by Neil Greenberg
Closed June 25, 2006
Evenings at 7:30 p.m.
Dance Theater Workshop, 219 West 19th Street, Chelsea
Information: (212) 924-0077
Reviewed by Jack Anderson June 24, 2006

Antonio Ramos (front) and Paige Martin (back) in “Not-About-AIDS-Dance” by Neil Greenberg. Photo by Chris Woltmann


Neil Greenberg's program came during Gay Pride Week, an ideal time for this double-bill. AIDS first attracted attention 25 years ago. In 1994, a slide projection in Greenberg's "Not-About-AIDS-Dance" confessed that he was HIV-positive. Today, Greenberg is still dancing, still choreographing, and offering a revival of "Not-About-AIDS-Dance." Three members of the original cast, Ellen Barnaby, Justine Lynch, and Greenberg himself, were back in it, joined by Paige Martin and Antonio Ramos.

As before, "N-A-A-D," as the company calls it for short, provokes thought.. If you avoid looking at the slides commenting on the cast that keep appearing on the back wall, the dance (much of it, at least) can simply be enjoyed for its breezy, swooping movements to snippets of music by Zeena Parkins.

A company representative said that the original choreography remains unchanged. But several slides have been updated, for they convey new biographical information about the dancers, both the present ones and their predecessors. So you begin to wonder if and how slides and movements may be related. Greenberg once danced with Merce Cunningham, who enjoys having many different kinds of actions, sounds, and visual events occur simultaneously; therefore "N-A-A-D" might be viewed as a Cunninghamesque tribute to this world's multiplicity.

But some episodes are peculiar. When Barnaby staggers while a slide mentions her mother's death, you start wondering if that influenced Greenberg's choreography or Barnaby's interpretation of it. Later, we have the slide announcing Greenberg's HIV status and a truly harrowing moment when his face assumes a haunted expression that he tells us is how his brother looked while in a coma before dying of AIDS. At one point, Ramos brusquely swings branches and swords: a purely kinetic event, or a symbol of strong feelings? A disquieting solo has Greenberg making odd chewing motions while opening and closing his hands and tugging compulsively at his shorts in what could be an outburst of fear. Slides keep naming friends who died of AIDS. The necrology is grim and the choreography's emotional progression becomes insidious and inexorable.

"N-A-A-D" doesn't really end, at least not in any tidy fashion. It just stops, implying that time goes on, at least for the living.

And so it does, for here is Greenberg presenting a new men's quartet in which he, Ramos, Luke Miller, and Colin Stilwell lope about with swinging and scooping motions to musical bits by Parkins and Ru Paul. Costumed by David Quinn in jeans and bright sports shirts, they seem nice guys you could imagine strolling through Chelsea or gathering at a club until, one by one, they disperse. .

But there's more than amiability here. Greenberg has titled this premiere "Quartet with Three Gay Men," once again arousing thought. The gayness in his title makes you wonder if any of the steps have anything specifically to do with being gay. When the dancers drum their feet against the floor, is this rage against homophobia, or just youthful testosterone? And are the quiet moments merely meditative ones, or do they suggest melancholy thoughts about AIDS?

Then, of course, there's the title's implication that one of the four men isn't gay. But which? The choreography never says, which, perhaps, is refreshing, even inspiring. Because these guys seem friends, Greenberg implies that, whatever our sexual orientation may be, we should all get along well.

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