This weekend's bill at the Dance Place, which had the first of three showings last night, was a double-header -- two separate programs back-to-back with an intermission between. First up was dancer Steve Krieckhaus, in a series of brief but dense, punchy solos, followed by performance artist Paul Zaloom, repeating, with minor variation, the madcap "Theater of Trash" numbers he presented here so successfully last April.
What was striking about the two in combination was the sense of borderlines between artistic genres straddled in contrasting ways. Krieckhaus, from Philadelphia, is a dancer-choreographer who draws his themes from everyday life and his movement materials from sources ranging from conventional modern dance to martial arts, contact improvisation, mime, tumbling, juggling and pedestrian activities. He's a dancer in the discipline and craft of his movement, in his sense of rhythm, in the continuum of dynamics he builds from disparate elements. He's a mime to the extent that he utilizes ordinary and stylized gesture, facial expression, body English and mimetic situations based on daily life.
Zaloom, on the other hand, is a cross between a standup comedian, a circus zany, a puppeteer, a mime and a socio-political satirist. The "trash" he so adroitly exploits and manipulates in his pieces ranges from government catalogues to spray cans, garden tools, a birdcage, baby shoes, detergent bottles and other flotsam, accompanied by prestissimo bandinage often involving outrageously caricatured dialect or foreign accents.
Both are virtuosos and both are gifted with uncommon imagination and wit. Krieckhaus' work is perhaps more startlingly original and mysterious, a kind of rendering into visible form of the subconscious stream of feeling and imagery we're all immersed in as we go about the mundane business of living. Zaloom is more an outright showman, a one-man vaudeville team, a glorified con artist who switches gears so fast you don't know if he's coming or going.
Putting them together was an inspired idea -- somehow their complementary talents come into sharper relief in the context of the juxtaposition.
Two of Krieckhaus' numbers -- "Rosewalk" and the improvised "Nation of Explanation" -- were more or less pure movement studies, and they testified to an amazing dexterity of placement, attack and balance. In the enigmatic "The Examination," a parody of pseudo-scientific jargon was heard while Krieckhaus stripped assistant Eric Schoefer to briefs and proceeded to attach clothespins to his body in the manner of acupuncture.
The most impressive of Krieckhaus' pieces were "This Time," in which he shuttled between a writing desk, a rocking chair and a mattress in fitfully anxious bursts; and the extremely amusing "Seven Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," a sequence of episodes in each of which he is led by slyly different means to drop the towel that is his only attire.
Zaloom's program was no less hilarious a second time through. "Leonardo's Revenge" was a daft puppet show in which Zaloom shunted from one cockeyed character to another in lightning changes, the whole being a sendup of the life of an artist in today's frenetic urban environment. "In America," the finale, lampooned education, dining, agriculture, the auto industry and prison life, with the help of a junkyard full of props and Zaloom's maniacally staccato delivery.
Repeat performances are scheduled for tonight and Sunday afternoon.