Last weekend in Overture's Promenade Hall, Kanopy Dance Company revived its Metallica piece, a highly stylized goth romance dance opera in two half-hour acts, currently titled After the Fall. Set to an eerily soft-edged rendering of Metallica tunes by Apocalyptica, a trio of classically trained Finns, this quirky work oozes nonlinear narrative à la Martha Graham, plus a Tim Burton sense of evil characterization. Frequent Kanopy collaborator David Quinn's brilliant costuming makes the fantasy seem real.
This is one of my favorite works by a local company. The choreography's largely by Kanopy co-director Robert Cleary, with a few segments by former company dancers and a dark two-part ending by Cleary's partner, Lisa Thurrell. Like all Thurrell/Cleary collaborations, After the Fall mixes the classic, gut-centered idioms of 20th-century modern dance (mostly Graham) with Duncanesque barefoot ballet.
Kanopy, striving to meet the demands of being one of Overture's resident companies, is evolving. Last year, in a move to strengthen technique, the Kanopy School added ballet class to its regimen. It's starting to show, though classical training is a slow process. After the Fall was uneven - I saw wobbly legs here, failed pirouettes there. And choreograhically, a few dead zones disrupted a carnival of splashy dynamics.
Still, After the Fall was so dramatic, so from-the-heart, I almost didn't notice the glitches. Cleary shone as the over-the-top evil villain Puppet Master. His henchwomen were three tenebrious, black-veiled Shrouds, among whom Kanopy principal Meg Johnson stood out.
The antiheroes in this morality play were Mohawk Man (classically trained company principal Juan Carlos Díaz Vélez) and the China Dolls, three otherworldly goth Lolitas with glazed bisque faces and shiny black patent Betty Boop 'dos. Like these characters, a neutral chorus, in flapper dress - Kanopy Dance II, the school's studio company - was subject to Cleary's spell.
In a series of brief pas de deux, the China Dolls competed for Mohawk Man, who moved as if made of taut rubber bands. The shortest Doll (polished young Yoshie Fujimoto Kateada) won his affections, but Cleary, flinging his cape, mouthing silent "bwa-ha-ha!"s, drove the star-crossed couple apart.
The action jumped from Act I's abstract cityscape to a loony bin in Act II, my favorite part. Here, Mohawk Man and the China Dolls met again. The chorus dancers, looking utterly insane in neck braces and sparkly straightjackets, arms knotted behind their backs, executed circular, ballety patterns or wild little dances, leaping, spinning, flailing. After a final showdown between the Shrouds and the Dolls, Puppet Master hoisted Mohawk Man triumphantly over his head like Christ on the Cross. The short China Doll sobbed silently. As the lights dimmed, the characters, chorus included, sat on the floor, rocking back and forth.
It's an image that sticks.