Friday, March 29, 2019

REVIEW: Flatlands Dance Theatre's "Delicious"

by Shane Strawbridge

Have you ever bitten into a cupcake so good that it made you want to dance a little? No? Maybe just a little shimmy? A twirl? A heelflip? Come on, admit it. No shame here. Safe space. In Flatlands Dance Theatre’s newest production, Delicious, the entire evening of dance centers around that culinary confection and the different ways it makes us feel. And like any good cupcake, it leaves you wishing for one more bite.

Flatlands Dance Theatre created Delicious in collaboration with The Ruffled Cup Bakery, meeting with the owner and bakers months ago to discuss why baking is important to them. The company used these interviews, as well as personal experiences, as the dry ingredients (I’m so clever) on which their pieces were built. Through this collaboration, they aimed to showcase the flavors, processes, colors, qualities, stories, and social and cultural references relevant to bakers and the baking process.

Sitting in the audience waiting for the show to begin, you can see smiling kids carrying in plates piled high with tiny cupcakes. A few minutes before curtain, an announcement is made: “The show will begin soon, but if you want to grab another cupcake before we begin, feel free,” which leads to a handful of patrons scurrying back out to the lobby like the gleeful children who had just passed them on the way in. The entire atmosphere is playful, inviting, and delightful enough to make even this curmudgeon crack a smile.

The qualities of the pieces range from abstract to confectionary with something for all. Highlights of the production include Sarah Mondle’s Mix Well, a tribute to her grandmother’s kitchen and the lessons and recipes she learned there. Watching Allison Beaty, Ali Duffy, and Rachel Ure dance was like witnessing a baking family tree take root and sprout in both the present, the memory, and the future. It was a simple, unassuming, and touching portrait that I could have watched over and again.

Sarah Sabin’s The Maillard Reaction is the most abstract piece of the evening, but one that I found engrossing once the theme and variations took time to settle in. It offers a look at the science of baking for its inspiration as opposed to the feel-good nature that tends to be focused on. The final section of the piece, “Heat,” is an amoebic chemical reaction that feels as warm to watch as it is to live, the dancers’ bodies slowly undulating as if rising under the dry heat of a baker’s oven.

Plenty of enjoyment exists in the toe-tapping numbers as well, especially in Allison Beaty’s Sweet, Sweet Defeat, a pleasing dance of seduction, repulsion, and capitulation to that sweet confection that the evening is based upon. Danced over a trio of Etta James’ hits, Beaty’s choreography left me half expecting a cupcake pas de deux to break out at any moment.

As I was leaving the theatre, I overheard another patron comment that Flatlands had found quite a cool concept for their show, and I agree. Flatlands Dance Theatre has found just the right mix of ingredients to put together a night of dance that does more than merely entertain, but pushes audiences to think, reminisce, and question along the way. In the end, it’s complicated, sweet, and fun—just like a top-notch dessert should be.

Delicious continues on Saturday, March 30th in the Firehouse Theatre at LHUCA (511 Avenue K). The dessert bar begins at 6:30 pm in the lobby followed by the performance in the theatre. Ticket prices include admission to the dessert bar and the show; ticket prices are $30 general admission and $20 for seniors, children, and students with ID. Tickets can be purchased at the door, online, or by calling Select-A-Seat at (806) 770-2000.

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