Nancy Evans Doede is a teller of stories and, as it turns out, a very good comedienne. She has also come up with a very unique idea for this latest concert of The Nancy Evans Dance Company. Titled WORKS 2016: 8 Works, 2 Takes! the company presented eight short works at John Pennington’s ARC (A Room to Create) in Pasadena. In Act II eight works were present that were a second take on the eight works in Act I. In between each dance, Doede and another dancer acted as stage crew changing the scenery and props. It was during these entr’actes that Doede demonstrated her almost perfect comedic timing. As head crew member, she went from bossing her lazy assistants around to blossoming into the aging beauty flirting with a passing male to obtain his help; or like a carrot before a mule, tempting him with cash.  Doede managed to keep us entertained while all the backstage business took place between works.

Each dance had two similar but different lives.  In Act I, BE AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF: IN A PIG’S EYE was a humorous take on The Three Little Pigs nursery rhyme. The three pigs were en pointe, wore shocking pink tutus equipped with curly, even pinker tails. The roles were performed very well by Katrina Amerine (Straw Pig), Jen Hunter (Stick Pig) and Ashleigh Doede (Brick Pig). There was the wolf (Virginia Woolf) portrayed by Jenn Logan and a lamb performed by Karina Jones.  You know the nursery rhyme, so you know what took place; the smart pig won out.

In Act II, BE AFRAID, TAKE 2: WHEN PIGS SPY  the story takes on a Mission Impossible scenario with the three pigs as secret agents, and the wolf and lamb as two thieves trying to steal their secret weapon.  The same two pigs get taken out, but the smarter pig wins the prize. The movement, costumes, and sets were conceived by Scot Tupper and realized through the collaboration with the dancers, Clayton Thomas and Adam Taggart.

NEDT's LEIDENSCHAFTS, 1999 - Photo by Cortney Armitage
NEDT’s LEIDENSCHAFTS, 1999 – Photo by Cortney Armitage

Each work presented was treated in this manner. In LEIDENSCHAFTS, 1999 two lovers struggle to get along.  Choreographed in the Adagio Acrobalance Duet style by Katrina Amerine and Derek Meadows, this dance made use of a very sturdy wooden table, two wooden chairs and performed fearlessly by the two choreographers.  In Act II, the two lovers become more loving and accepting of each other in TRY AGAIN. While the choreography was still filled with incredible lifts and amazing strength, those lifts were accented with tenderness.

ADHERE UNTIL…, in Act I, shows the ugly side of a polygamous relationship or marriage. An abusive man bosses and mistreats his three wives. We see two wives act totally submissively while one tries to fight back; only to get beaten down. Choreographed by Ashleigh Doede, it is a strong and difficult dance to watch. Katrina Amerine, Karina Jones, Jenn Logan and Scot Tupper give very powerful performances. Act II: DREAM UNTIL…? These same four characters take on totally different personas. The abusive husband becomes a lonely, gentle man who falls asleep at his computer and dreams of having relations with his three cleaning ladies.

ITALY, in Act I and ITALY…ONE HOUR LATER in Act II have a Twilight Zone feel to them. A magical dress shop owner (Scot Tupper) enchants female costumers; turning them into manikins. He gets his due in Act II when a modern woman (Ashleigh Doede) figures out what he is doing, frees the other women (Katrina Amerine, Jen Hunter and Jenn Logan), and cast his own spell back onto him. Choreographed by Nancy Evans Doede, it is a fun take on power, revenge and Karma.

THE JONESES, 1966 and THE JONESES, 2016, choreographed by Jenn Logan, presents the male (Tupper) and female (Ashleigh Doede) side of a “typical” family at dinner, and who exactly is wearing the pants in the family. The first is the domineering husband who demands that his wife and two daughters (Katrina Amerine and Jen Hunter) obey him and the second reverses those roles to present the “stay at home” dad, his exhausted bread winning wife and their two daughters who are more interested in their cell phones that joining in with family dinner conversation. This was not the strongest piece on the program, but it did give a realistic view of how family life is evolving.

NEDT's CASUALITIES 2014 - Photo by Shana Skelton
NEDT’s CASUALITIES 2014 – Photo by Shana Skelton

CASUALTIES: TWO and CASUALTIES: 2 of 35,000 by Nancy Evans Doede shows two types of victims of war. The first is two lovers who are separated by war and the grief it brings to the woman as her lover/husband is killed. The second take presents us with two homeless people who meet during a very cold winter and join forces to survive. Jenn Logan and Scot Tupper give wonderful performances with their dancing and acting to portray totally different characters.

NEDT's RECESS - Photo by Karina Jones
NEDT’s RECESS – Photo by Karina Jones

RECESS and REGRESS, by Nancy Evans Doede, shows the fun, competitive and mischievous side to children playing during their school recess, and a group of elderly people in a nursing home having the same experiences while restricted by age, medications and walkers. Both pieces are fun, but both could stand a bit of editing. The dancers were Amerine, Ashleigh Doede, Hunter, Logan and Tupper.

Finally, ALTER EGO and ALTERED EGO take a look at a woman’s struggle to suppress her inner, more aggressive self; then the acceptance and embracing of that alter ego. This is a very strong work by Jenn Logan and performed beautifully by Jen Hunter and Jenn Logan.

NEDT's Alter Ego - Photo by Shana Skelton
NEDT’s Alter Ego – Photo by Shana Skelton

Nancy Evans Doede studied and danced with modern dance legend and icon Hanya Holm, and later with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company in Minneapolis. Her narrative work is a bit dated, but she has found a way to bring it more towards our present time with this new concept of 8 works, 2 takes. Now, will she continue to push her limits and her boundaries? Doede loves the narrative and an artist who enjoys investigating all sides of an issue. She uses a wide range of music from classical to contemporary, and even well-known movie themes like Henry Mancini’s The Pink Panther.

Jessica Kondrath deserves mention for her lighting design. With limited equipment, she created a new environment for each dance, and the second take of each dance looked different from its original. The costumes for these dances were also well chosen and beautifully made.

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Jeff Slayton
Jeff Slayton has had a long and influential career as a dancer, choreographer, and educator. Born in Virginia in 1945, Slayton began dancing as a child in order to correct his condition of hip dysplasia. He enjoyed a performance career in New York dancing for Merce Cunningham, Viola Farber and others. In 1978 he moved to Long Beach, CA. where began teaching at California State University, Long Beach as a part time faculty member. He became a full time faculty member in 1986 and continued to teach at CSULB until 1999. Jeff Slayton was one of the faculty members that helped design the Dance Center at CSULB as well as develop and implement the BFA, MFA and MA degree programs. While in Long Beach, he formed his own company, Jeff Slayton & Dancers, that operated from 1978 to 1983. He continues to stage works in the Southern California area. He is also the author of two books, "The Prickly Rose: A Biography of Viola Farber" and "Dancing Toward Sanity". For more information on Jeff Slayton please go to www.jeffslayton.org.

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