Saturday, November 21, 2009


Doug Elkins and Friends delight in ‘THE SOUND OF MUSIC’ take-off

As evidenced by ‘FRÄULEIN MARIA,’ his take-off of the musical ‘THE SOUND OF MUSIC,’ which was recently presented by DanceCleveland at the Hanna Theatre, Doug Elkins may well be the crown prince of comic dance choreography.

‘THE SOUND OF MUSIC’ is a stage musical based losely on the von Trapp family who escaped Europe at the onset of World War II after being harasssed by the Nazis. The musical is inspirational, farily serious and contains Rogers and Hammerstein’s usual social message of the better way to live.

Now, picture the goings-on as envisioned by Elkins.

The evening is introduced by Richard Rogers. Well, its a spotlight on the center of the stage which represents the song wirter and is supplemented by a tape recording of the great man, who probably rolls over in his grave every time Elkins and Friends does a take off on his beloved musical score.

Since the story takes place in the hills of Austria, we need hills. These are created by dancers encased in and waving green and tan strips of fabric. A snow capped mountain is formed by Elkins (who not only choreographed the performance but dances in it as well) leaping off the stage, snatching a white shawl off the shoulders of a woman in the front row, running back onto the stage and tossing it on top of one of the hills. This is done while hip hop, classical ballet, contemporary and modern dance, martial arts moves and improvised maneuvers are exploding on stage to the entire score from the musical.

Then there is Maria the singing nun turned nanny, turned dressmaker, turned mommy, who is simultaneously performed by three different dancers, one an African American male.

You think attending a dance concert is a passive experience? Not in Elkins’ creative hands. You will--yes, you will--take part by singing “Do-Re-Mi,” in three-part harmony, lead by Elkins, himself.

Elkins is not your usual run of the mill choreographer. He started his performance life as a B-boy. A break dancer who toured the world with groups like the New York Dance Express and Magnificent Force. And, with that background, as you watch the madcap antics on stage, you will surely note that his work is inventive, eccentric and compelling.”

Even Elkins choice of dancers is not traditional. While most dance companies go for thin woman and muscle toned males, Elkins favors sturdy, often fleshy men and women, with lots of power. There's nothing exotic, about this company, but, they are talented. And, as can be expected, their backgrounds don’t fit the usual company description. One of the males just started dance training in January. He’s a gymnast and martial arts expert.

The company is reinforced by local professionals who were chosen via a tryout. They are Kelly Michael Brunk from Groundworks, Ellen Ressler Hoffman of Repertory Project and Footpath Dance, Amy Miller, Groundworks, Rebecca Nicklos, MegLousie Dance and Morrison Dance and Marie Zvosec, Ohio Dance Theatre. They perform in a fantastic hip-hop segment set to “Climb Every Mountain.”

Even the curtain call was fun.

Capsule judgement: . ‘FRÄULEIN MARIA’ was an evening of dance not to be missed! Too bad Elkins only performed twice because word of mouth would have filled additional stagings. Let’s hope that Pam Young, Executive Director of DanceCleveland, brings Elkins back in the very near future.