David Neumann "Big Eater" (in-progress) at Hunter College

So, I’m running through the door at Hunter College late for rehearsal to remount “Rip It Open” (a work I made for PS122 7 years ago with the intention/expectation of NEVER touring it) for a tour to Hawaii (like I’d turn that down just because I’ve “moved on”) and there’s David Neumann running out the door.  “David. Maura. How are you? And, what are you doing here?” (It’s 11am on a Sunday).  He apparently has a 1-month residency with the Theater Department and though he’s a a well-regarded choreographer (read “dance”), no one thought to inform us six floors up in the Dance Program (that I’ve recently joined as full-time faculty).  Y’know, because it’s a Theater Department residency… PEOPLE – can we get over these ridiculous divisions?

I opted to return at 5pm to see his APAP showing in the Frederick Lowe Theater at Hunter.  Neumann tells us before the showing that an Emory University scientist he has been collaborating with told him there are two kinds of scientists: (1) those who separate and classify things and (2) those who seek connections between phenomena. Ironic, right?

“Big Eater” will premiere at The Kitchen in March and in its current state includes probably 50 minutes of elegant, pastoral dancing and 5 minutes of talking heads.  I’m exaggerating, but only because there is a lot of “dancy” dancing in this multi-media Theater piece.  Neumann is taking on mental appetites for knowledge, for discovery, and – in a shaking-in-my-seat-from-laughter sequence – destruction, as best represented in a re-enactment of the David Hasselhoff’s drunken stupor YouTube video by Neal Medlyn and Andrew Dinwiddie.  Dancers Natalie Agee, Kennis Hawkins, Weena Pauly, and Will Rawls perform extensive dream-like movement sections with a standard grace.  There are many sweeping arms and legs, some formal classical port-de-bras and balletic drama from Agee and Medlyn, and gentle gymnastics from Hawkins.  The projections include negative images of branches that dissolve and reform, sometimes casting luscious shapes on the dancers bodies.  During one of the few “dialogue” scenes, Actors Natalie Agee, Weena Pauly, Neal Medlyn, Andrew Dinwiddie, Kennis Hawkins, and Will Rawls debate, a la pompous academic conference panel, the value of man’s ability to dream beyond our grasp citing our desire to strive for more than we can do as the vital element that separates us from animals.  The interjection of The Drunk works to argue that our appetites can lead to binges and reduce us to primitive behaviors.  Neumann uses the sound from Hasselhoff’s video, a live portrayal of Hasselhoff’s collapsed physicality and ravenous devouring of a Big Mac, and then a progressive deconstruction of the entire scene to tease out the various forces and confusions around such excess. I grabbed burgers on my way home.

Video here.

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