You can learn a lot of things from the flowers, and especially in the month of June— but what can you learn from swans and dancing birds at the office Christmas party in the tail-end of the month of April? The Moxie Fords show you exactly what with their brand new dance-inspired variety show Rite of Spring. Premiering for a two-performance engagement over the weekend of April 29th and 30th, 2017 in the black box space of Stillpointe Theatre, this whimsical and wonderful cabaret of creative dance brought springtime sunshine to the audience, brightening their evening and afternoon with a myriad of choreography and other enchanting instances. Directed and Choreographed by Ann Tabor, this innovative dancer’s cabaret indeed set forth a delectable sampling of variety when it comes to ballet and dance.
With a simple set in the intimacy of Stillpointe Theatre’s black box setup, designed by Ann Tabor and Emily Ward, the night time city skyline twinkled radiantly as the backdrop. Tabor and Ward, with Tabor the Costumes and Properties mistress in command, got all of the office accoutremets in place for the opening number, entitled “Office Christmas Party— The Moxie Fords”, which was a highly condensed and completely inaccurate Bawlmer Hon version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. The costumes ranged all over the whimsical spectrum— largely avian as the show progressed including some too cute for words bird ensembles, in particular the furry owl suit worn by cameo performer Jon Freedlander. Tabor put cotton balls and feathers to good use as well, crafting bunny butts and swan headpieces for “The Rite of Spring” and “Four Little Swans…and a Bunch of Annoying Birds.”
Between dance acts, The Stanely Bothered Band— featuring solo musician Stanley Bothered— performed two enchanting ditties for the audience, making the show truly a variety event. The first number, “Pas de Deux”, was dance-themed and informed, featuring Bothered in a dancer’s tutu and black unitard. Strumming along sweetly on his ukulele, Bothered charmed the audience with his dapper charm and sweet song. Featured later in the variety show with a second number, “Three Chords and a Smile”, he warmed the audience with a few chuckle-worthy jokes and then played along on both ukulele and kazoo masked cleverly as a trumpet. His stage charisma was as delightful as the tunes he performed and Bothered received a great deal of applause from the audience for his efforts.
Tacking back to the opening number of the show “Office Christmas Party” the chaos and devolution of an office Christmas party gone wrong set to the notions of The Nutcracker Suite was a brilliant vessel to showcase the multitude of dancing talents, in particularly the tap routines, of The Moxie Fords core dancers. At one point the office party goers broke into a classic windows formation and began a rhythmic tap routine that had the audience thoroughly invested and enjoying the performance. Tabor took this tried chestnut of a dance show and transformed it to fit Baltimore to a tee. Featuring Clara Cockroach (Ellen Jenkins) who came scurrying in to feast upon the remnants of the trashed office party, followed in hot pursuit by Rats (Julie Murphy and Regina Shock), and eventually a graceful, sword-thrusting Rat Queen (Lisa Wiseman), the whole epic involvement was quite entertaining and well-fitted for a performance on the Honfest Stage.
Tabor took to her own series of intense tap routines opposite Moxie Fords dancer Jess Rivera in the titular piece “Rite of Spring.” Based on Stravinsky’s piece of the same name, Tabor and Rivera got springtime playful with the affair— a remarkable contrast compared to how Stravinsky’s piece, which traditionally contains jerky movements, rhythmic stomping, and a deeply darkened plot, is usually performed— performing to the music as hoppity-floppity bunny rabbits. Still including elements of the intense stomps via their fleet-footed tap work, both Tabor and Rivera kept the audience enthralled and giggling as carrots, flirtation, and a giant awkward owl (Jon Freedlander) came swooping into the number.
With all the glory of playing The Rat Queen in the opening routine of the variety show, Lisa Wiseman returned to the stage for a solo number from Sleeping Beauty. While not performing the ballet or the novel in its original conception, Wiseman brought a glistening darkness to her performance, which was inspired by Matthew Bourne’s rendition featuring vampires. Wiseman brought her signature move to the piece— tap on pointe— and dazzled the audience with her flare for performance, her ability to rock a dance move that just handfuls of individuals in the country can perform, and ultimately her confidence in the character she created for the show. Enhancing the act with a fetching and eye-catching outfit featuring red roses and lots of black, Wiseman boldly put Sleeping Beauty into its place in the variety show.
Taking a more traditional and classical approach to ballet, Nicolette Le Faye showed the audience the iconic stereotype of a ballerina with her performance of “Prelude” from the classical ballet Les Sylphides. With slow grace and standard ballet moves, Le Faye captured the essence of what every American girl dreams that ballet is, languid movements that float gently over the music in a dreamy gossamer tutu and princess-cut bodice. Le Faye made exceptional use of the intimate space, unfolding her dance without the limited perimeters of the space’s width and depth.
The closing act, once again featuring all of The Moxie Fords was entitled “Four Little Swans…and a Bunch of Annoying Birds.” Attempting to perform “Dance of the Cygnets” from act two of Swan Lake, four little swans (Lisa Hall, Theresa Koviak-Hall, Ann Tabor, Lisa Wiseman) keep getting interrupted by a myriad of birds— including a pigeon (Lacey McCann), a turkey (Julie Murphy), a chicken (Regina Shock), a peacock (Emilee Romano), a duck (Joan O’Connor), and an owl (Jon Freedlander.) Joined by the Black Swan (Jess Rivera in an all-black tutu, unitard, and feathers, in homage to Black Swan), the tappers eventually succeed in some of their routine, but not without epic hilarity ensuing first.
An ultimate success, the variety show provided a splendid afternoon and evening of entertainment for everyone involved. Coming soon in the 2018 season, The Moxie Fords will be presenting 42nd Street. Be sure to keep eyes and ears peeled and open for further details regarding this fantastical upcoming dance project!
Rite of Spring played a two-show engagement presented by The Moxie Fords presented at Stillpointe Theatre— 1825 N. Charles Street in the Station North Arts District of Baltimore, MD.
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