LA Times - L'effleur Skillfully Attacks the Senses

LA Times - L'effleur Skillfully Attacks the Senses

Near-perfect execution and aggressive physical display intensify the already erotic French-style cabaret.

April 15, 2006

Dancers creating new showcase opportunities for themselves and for others are helping transform the local scene, bridging the gap between the commercial and concert dance communities. The latest example is Cati Jean's "L'Effleur des Sens," running Thursdays at the King King nightclub in Hollywood.

Contrary to its title, this hourlong revue doesn't really flirt with the senses, caress or tease them. Instead, Jean (a French dancer-choreographer best known for her film and television work) stages a full-scale assault. No thigh remains unbared, no bottom unwiggled, no maracas unshaken.

Considering how much the revue exploits aggressive physical display, the dancing is finer than it needs to be. Jean's seven women make strong individual statements even when identically undressed, but they're alike in using their long legs with the precision of surgeons slicing into repressed psyches.

Technical standards remain well-nigh impeccable, even when the choreography grows complex or dangerous, as in Kate Ferris' daring aerial "Caress" solo on two skeins of rose-colored fabric high above the stage.

The lone male, Gregg Romero, exudes disreputable savoir-faire, seeking women in the audience to help him strip during his solo "And Why Not" and behaving as if anyone who even looks at him is hopelessly corrupt.

The most disappointing element is the lip-syncing (as in the opening "Cabaret" ensemble). It makes the numbers seem secondhand, even when the stagings prove distinctive.

But the weakest moment is perhaps the most ambitious expressively: a down-and-out solo for Vai Au-Harehoe on the balcony adjacent to the stage. Intended to depict a prostitute's desolation and to set up the brutal "Lost Love" abuse-tango she'll perform with Romero, it aims for a raw, almost documentary style but doesn't get beyond mundane gestural specifics.

Jean's talents are more persuasively on view in "Fatale" - which finds Dawn Michelle Manigault and Mieko Hillman sprawling picturesquely atop futons, lashing their hair - or "Voila," in which Stephanie Spanski, Hannah Feldner-Shaw and Kerry Wee perch on stools, pulling loose white tops tightly across their chests as if experimenting with various looks.

It's relatively innocent, except that Jean puts the action behind a gauze curtain - turning all of us in the audience into voyeurs peering at something private. And this just might be the most French moment in the whole evening: the demonstration that eroticism doesn't always depend as much on what's shown as on how it's shown.

At a time when virtually everything is permitted, Jean reminds us that the lure of the forbidden still rules.

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