I went along to the Joel Show on Saturday night full of high expectations, with a bit of uncertainty thrown in. Joel Myers, as blogged above, is an incredibly powerful dancer (Spectrum, DASS Dance etc) with some choreographic talent that could go far. His Joel Show is a self-produced evening of his own dance and his own choreography with an eclectic mix of professional and student dancers of the ballet-contemporary type. This show, held at Tacoma City Ballet’s ballroom, was the fourth of the annual shows.
The only trouble is, with a self-produced show there’s not a whole lot of standard control, and what starts out as a cozy Tacoma-ish friends-and-family vibe can easily become an excuse for artistically dubious self-indulgence.
Myers, as the beginning, end and middle of the show, danced as terrifically as ever. “The War at Home,” set to a violent Prokofiev piano sonata played with clarity and force by Monty Carter, showed Myers’ phenomenal physical control. Alternating between extremes of slow tension and rapid muscle movement, Myers created a frantic ballet vocabulary, 10 fouettes becoming desperate staggers, or grand jetes becoming punches.
“Le Petit El” featured seven young girls from the Harbor Dance school, where Myers teaches, executing some unremarkable choreography with lightness. Like the MLKBallet MOVE! shows, the Joel Shows are great for giving students the chance to perform with professionals, though it can sometimes be irritating when the balance isn’t right. “Wax On,” to a Wax Taylor remix, made the combination work: a company of mostly School of the Arts dancers burst out of the audience in a sassy parody of both ballet and hip-hop. Leaps were clumsy and arms slow, but the balletic form was strong and the direction excellent. Brothers Sylvain and Danny Boulet (from Spectrum Dance) were a delight to watch, an easy athletic grace.
But then came trouble. After a hot intermission (the ballroom is very atmospheric but urgently needs some fans), Myers ushered his friend Daniel Blue onto the stage. A popular fashion guru around town, Blue also heads up the band Motopony, and tonight sang three numbers solo with Myers “interpreting” alongside. What to say, except that Blue’s machine-gun vibrato, nasal out-of-tune tenor and way-too-sentimental lyrics might have been bearable if it weren’t for the repetitively monotonous plainchant-style tunes over an oscillating 5th accompaniment that was exactly the same piece to piece. Myers’ actions were as subtle as ASL signs, and Blue’s drunken staggering to act out his last poor-me song turned a tragic history into an embarrassing farce.
The show ended, thankfully, with a calmer abstract ensemble piece featuring the best of Myers, the Boulets et al, to Bell Orchestre’s contemplative, jazzy “Airlines/Landlines.”
Myers is still working out the kinks in a completely self-produced show. Let’s hope by next August he’s raised the bar a bit higher.