Randy James is the founder and artistic director of the inventive 10 Hairy Legs.
This might sounds sexist, but there’s something about a group of men dancing together onstage. They pump more power, grab more air and shoot their authority through souls of an audience in a way that a troupe of women simply can’t.
And that’s the initial appeal of 10 Hairy Legs, an all-male ensemble of dancers. But then there is the technique – a fizzy brew of old-school modern and contact improvisation with acrobatics and marital arts. The meld is stunning to watch because the five men seize it with such natural fluidity and flair. They are like one body wrapped unto itself that is constantly undulating in ways that viewers cannot pull their eyes from.
The company, a brainchild of choreographer Randy James (a once frequent artistic guest at Skidmore College), previewed its “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” on Saturday night at the Kaatsbaan International Center for Dance. Choreographed by James, this is an atypical work as it opens the company up to female artists – five in all. It’s also a work that can appeal to children, families and those who are tepid toward dance, telling the tale from the first book from C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” series.
While a preview, it’s not fair to fully review. Let’s just say the final battle series is epic. Sarah Houspian’s depiction of the White Witch is chilling and her annihilation by The Lion, danced by Alex Biegelson, and his band of faithful is triumphant.
Before it premieres, however, I hope the costumes by Abraham Cruz become more literal. I couldn’t tell the beavers from the birds. And it was Biegelson’s regal portrayal of the Lion that keyed me in on his character because he looked like the Wolf.
The music, a mix of Mozart pieces, was ideal for the tale between good and evil. The personalities of the selections, bright and bouncy and dark and disquieting, set a perfect tone for the episodic telling.
The evening also featured 10 Hairy Legs doing what they do best –interlocking and bouncing their bodies off each other in a hypnotic dance. “Trouble Will Find Me,” choreographed by Doug Elkins, is set the robust music and vocals by Pakistani artist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
The five men started off strong and kept up the heated, but playful exchange in which they started off as five independent spirits who eventually explore every open space of their fellow dancer – from ear to arm pit and through the legs. The timing at which they attack the movement is pinhead precise.
They assemble and disperse like a living puzzle. It’s fascinating and makes me and, anyone with eyes, long for more of 10 Hairy Legs.