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Catherine Cabeen/Hyphen’s “Give Me More” is a Rallying Cry for Action

by Bonnie Rosenstock
January 26, 2018
Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-1109
Colorful clothing stretched out on netting draping walls and columns of Theater for the New City’s Community Space Theater. Pre-show piped-in music of songs about money and riches from various genres ranging from disco, pop, country and hip-hop. These visual and aural appetizers whetted our appetite for the main course, Catherine Cabeen/Hyphen’s world premiere of “Give Me More,” a delectable repast of ideas, billed as the “relationship between conditioning, consumption and self-worth.”

The three-part, 75-minute work on January 26 led off with “Glitter in the Gutter,” a wonderfully incisive comedic duet with choreography, text and luminous performances by Cabeen and Kristina Berger with music by Sheila E’s “Glamorous Life” and John Cage’s “Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano.” It began with youthful exuberance and glamour and ended with the unsettling reality of how to cope with being aging performers.

The two women started out wearing shimmery tight-fitting mini-dresses, a headband with a huge feather and extremely high heels. They complain about their body aches and their tiresome routine. Berger convinces Cabeen that after being showgirls for 20 years, they should incorporate meaningful movements into their act, with comedic effect and loss of job. Off to New York to become liberated, independent artists, where auditioning is almost as painful as their aches and pains. There is a wonderful bit on renting a rehearsal studio. “There is no price on art”; however, each time, the space gets more expensive and smaller and finally they wind up dancing body-to-body. For bigger space, there’s Central Park in parkas, but the rocky ground isn’t conducive to barefoot dancing. What started out with “There is no price on art” devolves into imminent poverty. The obvious solution: Teach Dance, which got a big laugh from the savvy audience. There follows a long riff through dance, mime and word on absurd, entrenched administrative directives, paperwork and the lengths these tuition-dependent institutions go to attract and retain students no matter what their skill or interest level. Anyone who has ever taught in a college or university can relate. But our two intrepid women slog on, and we are rooting for them.

A “koan” is a story, dialogue, question or statement used in Zen practice to provoke great doubt and test a student’s progress. The second piece, “This American Koan” highlights gender roles, overconsumption and environmental destruction and provokes big questions, which should give us all pause. The original score is by Mark Katsaounis, with text, choreography and an interactive set consisting of 200 pounds of recycled clothing. A woman slowly enters in what appears to be a dress with a long train. An unexpected surprise, the train is composed of clothing sewn or attached together, which the dancers pull out and strew across the stage. The ensuing scenes hit the mark, with word and movement by the seven skilled performers, who put on and take off the various garments, which are still attached together. The environment section offers up clever lines like, “I can’t eat anything that’s not engineered,” and “You have a Hazmat suit to take a dip.”

Cabeen explores gender identity dressed in pants, shirt, a short blond wig and dark sunglasses as she dances to an audio of her arguing with an unnamed male authority figure who won’t allow her to make decisions about her own body. The razor-sharp text was written by Cabeen and read by Cabeen and Jeff Morrison, complemented by the music of Westin Oxking Portillo. Another scene has a cruel choreographer disparage both her male and female dancers about their bodies and talent. “Practice self-loathing as a dancer,” she tells a female dancer. The wonderful Darby Canessa later gets body shamed as the other performers pile the clothing on her with such comments as “Wear this before it goes out of style” and “Black is slimming.”

The final section, “…yet again,” is Cabeen as her male persona in a longer solo reprise of the taped dialogue between the two antagonists. Her strong, assertive dance proclaims self-empowerment and advocacy for others. We can’t wait for the next installment.
'Glitter in the Gutter' <br>Pictured L-R: Kristina Berger, Catherine Cabeen

"Glitter in the Gutter"
Pictured L-R: Kristina Berger, Catherine Cabeen

Photo © & courtesy of Zoë Markwalter

'This American Koan' <br>Pictured clockwise: Darby Canessa, Kathryn MacLellan, Sarah Lustbader

"This American Koan"
Pictured clockwise: Darby Canessa, Kathryn MacLellan, Sarah Lustbader

Photo © & courtesy of Zoë Markwalter

'This American Koan'<br>Pictured: Company

"This American Koan"
Pictured: Company

Photo © & courtesy of Zoë Markwalter

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