Too hot to handle

Baggage Claim

Choreographed by Paula Plessas and Ann Robideaux
Theatre for the New City/Community Space
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

Baggage Claim is the latest creative collaboration from PPARDance choreographers Ann Robideaux and Paula Plessas. Along with the clever contributions of composer Ted Coffey, installation artist Chanika Svetvilas, and costume designer Jacci Fredenberg, the powerful pair follow up their OOBR Award-winning I Forgot to Breathe offering with another breathtaking, eye-opening performance.

Billed as an "exploration of the various meanings of travel and the intrigues of venturing upon life's inner journey," the dance piece was really open for interpretation on many levels. In these times of terrorist threats and heightened security, part of the show might make viewers confront their newfound fears of flying. Other elements were meant to amuse, as humans and luggage moved together on unseen conveyor belts. There seemed to be an endless array of crazed commuters, camera-happy tourists, "twirling" dervishes, and frantic flight attendants. Even the initial emergence of the dancers from a womb-like cockpit door was both comical and compelling.

Actually, the action began even earlier. As the audience entered the auditorium, Robideaux and Plessas's imaginative staging got attention. A pre-show routine featuring one performer dangling a suitcase by a rope over the head of another unsuspecting castmate was equally fun and foreboding, a sign of things to come. The choreographers utilized every inch of the space, and if there was a way to have dancers leap onto the walls and ceiling, these movement experts would be the ones to figure out a way to do it.

Plessas was also part of the six-member ensemble, which went to extreme lengths to re-enact the physical and emotional evacuation process. Each dancer was given challenging solo and group sequences, and the trust-filled bond between all of them was obvious. With only one short break, the group -- consisting of Plessas, Neha Anada, Rebecca Mehan, Emelyne Randall, gNatalie Rodic, and Julie Troost -- were energetic and effervescent, giving it their all for the entire performance, and richly deserved kudos.

On the technical front, artist Svetvilas and lighting designer Cheryl Bond combined their efforts to effectively set the scene. Coffey's music was robotic and hypnotic, filled with beeps, bells, crunches, and whistles. Costumes by Fredenberg were quirky jumpsuit creations, covered with belts and buckles.

Anyone who hasn't experienced PPARDance in the past need only be warned to buckle up for a night of exciting theatrical turbulence.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Performance: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2004 Elias Stimac