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Review

Review: 'Gatsby Redux' distills Fitzgerald classic into dance

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“Gatsby Redux,” a site-specific dance theater piece, was performed by Mixed eMotion Theatrix at Tulsa’s historic Harwelden Mansion as part of Choregus Productions’ Summer Heat International Dance Festival.

The word “redux” means to “bring back” or “revive,” and Mixed eMotion Theatrix’s recent Tulsa performance of its dance theater work, “Gatsby Redux,” certainly revived the look and atmosphere of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel.

But the piece, which was presented June 8-9 as part of Choregus Productions’ annual Summer Heat International Dance Festival, also embodied what the sound of the word “redux” evokes — a reduction, or more precisely, a distillation of the events and themes of Fitzgerald’s story.

“Gatsby Redux,” conceived and choreographed by the company’s artistic director Janet Roston, was performed on the grounds of Tulsa’s Harwelden Mansion, which itself was constructed two years before the publication of “The Great Gatsby.” Audience members were guided around the grounds by a megaphone-wielding character called Evelyn (Sarah Mullis) to the various locations where the work’s 13 scenes and vignettes were staged.

Roston’s choreography draws heavily from the dance styles of the 1920s, and some of the vignettes (which allowed the main cast to dash to the location of the next major scene) were inspired by famed dancers of the era, such as the pageant-like ensemble piece that recalled Isadora Duncan, led by Jacqueline Hinton; a solo by Joi McCoy that had the sass and sensuality of Josephine Baker; and a chaste recreation by Christyn Dang of the sort of fan dance that made Sally Rand notorious.

The choreography is not overtly technical — perhaps in part because the dancers were performing on turf, concrete and stone, all of which can be treacherous for performers — but it was energetic and evocative, and clearly presented the sections of the “Gatsby” story Roston and cast wanted to tell.

Not surprisingly, the focus on “Gatsby Redux” is on the romances within the story — between Gatsby (Camal Pugh) and Daisy (Tiffany Wolff), and Tom (Nicholas Sipes) and Myrtle (Sarah Wines), the latter of which is also the only moment of real violence in the evening, as Tom’s brutal nature is made manifest.

The one other moment that contains the prospect of violence, when Tom breaks in on an intimate moment between Daisy and Gatsby, was played for comedy, as the confrontation became a manic, almost cartoonish version of the Charleston.

This led into Pugh’s solo, titled “Gatsby Alone,” that was danced beautifully, and really gave the sense of someone sifting through his memories, as they are all he has to show for his efforts to win Daisy’s love and his own place in an exclusive society.

Fortunately for the company and the audience, the performances were blessed with clement weather, and the backdrop of the Harwelden Mansion and its lush grounds help transport the audience to another time, when one might believe it was possible to revive the past, and bring the memories to which we cling back to life.

Choregus Productions will conclude its Summer Heat International Dance Festival with a performance by the Canadian troupe Tentacle Tribe, performing “Ghost,” an hour-long work by Emmanuelle Le Phan and Elon Hoglund that combines contemporary dance with hip-hop, martial arts and theater. The performance is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16, at Tulsa Ballet’s Studio K, 1212 E. 45th Place. For tickets: 918-688-6112, choregus.org.

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