Scorpius Dance Theatre's Catwalk Is Model Perfect Until the End

Scorpius Dance Theatre is known for several things: sensual movements, innovative choreography and Artistic Director/Choreographer Lisa Starry's creativity in designing shows that appeal to a broad audience. Last night's performance of Catwalk is no exception.

Scorpius Dance Theatre's Catwalk Is Model Perfect Until the End
Photo by Ed Flores

Modeled (no pun intended) after a haute couture fashion show, Catwalk incorporates rock music and fashions from local designers including Danell Lynn and Alicia 'AK' Klovenas. It's a highly entertaining show that alternately denigrates and celebrates the fashion industry.

The opening is a cheeky '50s-inspired number. As the lights dimmed and the Lady Gaga soundtrack faded, Scorpius' female dancers paraded onto the runway stage dressed in hot little polka-dot and plaid dresses, their faced plastered with plastic grins. Think vintage toothpaste commercial meets modern burlesque show. Creepy? Maybe. Hot? Definitely.

Starry's choreography for the opening number marries modern dance moves with vintage classics set to "That's Not My Name," a song by retro English pop band The Ting Tings. A few dancers were slightly off the beat during a synchronized swimming sequence straight out of the NuvaRing birth control commercial, but every dancer looked adorable mimicking Bye Bye Birdie's signature "telephone" move where a girl lies on her stomach, propped up by her elbows and cradling her chin in her hands. 

By the end of the song, several audience members were kicking their feet and humming along like teenagers at a '50s pajama party. It's a great opener. 

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While the first number gave the straight boys in the audience a (strictly PG) peek under the female dancers' skirts, "Uprising" was eye candy for ladies. Four toned male dancers in ripped jeans pranced like sexy Calvin Klein underwear models, pouting their lips and grinding their hips. The stylized movements were edgy and powerful, with high kicks and acrobatics done with folding chairs as props.

I was intrigued and a little flustered by Starry's ability to choreograph male-male couplings that carry the same sensual, exotic flavor as a classic tango. In one sweat-inducting move, two of the men slinked catlike towards their partners, their bodies just inches apart. Whew! Guess we know what kind of uprising Starry was seeking with this sexy number.

Other standouts included an intense Deftones piece and Duran Duran's "Electric Barbarella," in which cutie-pie Andrea Chesley (dressed in mirrored disco ball bodice and thigh-high patent leather dominatrix boots) was carried around by gorgeous men in a scene reminiscent of Madonna's "Material Girl" video. I was certain Chesley or one of the other girls would trip on their stripper heels like the two poor fallen models at this year's New York Fashion Week, but no. Scorpius' dancers are too graceful for that.    

The big surprise of the night was how entertaining the transitions between dances were. Set to original music by Kristofer Hill, these "interludes" ranged from an impressive breakdance by guest artist Edgar Soto Garcia to a clever Victoria's Secret parody in which a tall African-American male dancer strutted his stuff in a sequined 2-piece and fluffy angel wings. My favorite was a runway scene with several "models" in little black dresses pulling at each other's hair. After all, it's not a real fashion show without a catfight.

​Not every number was successful. The finale, set to Ravel's "Bolero," was as jarring as the staccato drumbeats that endlessly repeat throughout the song. 

 

A film component featured dancers in flesh colored bikinis, trailing long swaths of fabric. The live cast alternated between group stretches and more complex solos. Two aerial dancers writhed inside red spandex ribbons suspended from the ceiling, eventually emerging like maturing butterflies.

The piece had too much going on visually, and the blaring classical music (which got progressively louder) was repetitive to the point that the guy sitting next to me was soothed to sleep.

If Catwalk had ended with the upbeat hardcore Marilyn Manson number that preceded "Bolero," I would've left buzzing and jazzed for a night on the town. Instead I felt sluggish and confused.

But don't let that stop you from buying a ticket. Remember, this is the dance equivalent of Fashion Week -- and while there's always a Kimora Lee Simmons in the bunch, Versace, Dior and Marc Jacobs make up for it.  

 

Catwalk by Scorpius Dance Theatre continues through Saturday, May 8 at Phoenix Theatre, 100 E. McDowell Rd. in Phoenix. Visit www.scorpiusdance.com for info and tickets. 

     


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