By Yuko Kurahashi
Michael Mizerany presents the second installment of his cabaret series IN THE VA VA VOOM ROOM, “a contemporary burlesque,” at Diversionary Theatre through this weekend only. For the first installment presented in January 2016 was described by critics “fun” and “titillating.” Both words are easily applied to this year’s installment.
Award-winning dancer and choreographer, Mizerany performed with San Diego’s Malashock Dance and served as associate artistic director until 2013. Currently Mizerany is the artistic director for Compulsion Dance & Theater. He has presented a number of works at Diversionary Theatre, including [manhandled], Man Clan, Hot Guys Dancing, and A New Brain.
This second installment of IN THE VA VA VOOM ROOM proves Mizerany and his collaborators’ excellence in choreography, dramatization, theatricalization and dancing. Different types of dance—many of them using Horton Technique—include contemporary, modern, heel, pole, erotic, and stripping, choreographed by Andrew Holmes, Caryn Ipapo-Glass, Zaquia Mahler Salinas, Cara Steen, and Michael Mizerany.
Ten dancers demonstrate contrasting movements such as pushing and pulling followed by extension and suspension. Curtis Mueller’s lighting design evokes the dark and intimate atmosphere of a cabaret. Blair Nelson’s sound design forges each music piece through well-balanced amplification. Shaun Tuazon-Martin’s title card design adds punctuation and identification for each piece. Transitions between pieces are accentuated by Andrew Holmes’s hilarious, artistic, and adroit “cleaning” of the stage.
The show begins with three dancers (Steven Beasley, Victoria LeBrun, and Cara Steen) performing mesmerizing pole dancing; LeBrun’s long legs and arms are highlighted in Cara Steen’s choreography that emphasizes extensions and splits. Steen’s spinning/descending and Beasley’s vertical attitude are equally breathtaking.
Two solo pieces are integrated into the duet, trio, quartet, and quintet pieces. Travis Ti’s “Teeth,” choreographed by Mizerany is entertaining as well as nostalgic because Ti, in a leatherman costume, seductively strips and dances to Lady Gaga’s provocative song Teeth. In “Remember,” choreographed by Zaquia Mahler Salinas, Sarah Larson, roller-skates while twirling a baton. Larson, in a stark white, see-through ballerinaesque dress, dances this memory piece to Daughter (band)’s New Ways with an expression of a sentimental yearning for the past.
Although each piece has its distinctive dance movement and style, the central theme of IN THE VA VA VOOM ROOM is diversity, complexity, and transformation in human relationships. Loving and tender movement of two dancers (Nicholas Strasburg and Brittany Taylor) in “Sudden Subjugation,” choreographed by Caryn Ipapo-Glass, is transformed into an abusive one in the end. In the following piece, “Tethered,” choreographed by Mizerany, Blythe Barton recovers “women’s power” through her role of a dominatrix over her fellow dancer Bradley Lundberg. “All the Rave,” choreographed by Mizerany and the dancers, underscores the theme of frivolity of relationship through switchable partners, reminding me of the four lovers and Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Lundberg and Nicholas Strasburg’s “Cage Match,” choreographed by Mizerany, demonstrates the interchangeability between predation and attraction with humor. “Are You Ready,” choreographed by Andrew Holmes and performed by Holmes and Strasburg, alternates the competitiveness and sexual attraction between the two in a “dance” or “fashion” competition setting. The last segment of this piece, danced to Demi Lovato’s Confident, wholeheartedly captures the audience’s hearts.
IN THE VA VA VOOM ROOM is not just a “contemporary burlesque.” It is an artistic, athletic and theatrical work of Mizerany and his collaborators. Though it may be another year’s wait to enjoy the third installment of IN THE VA VA VOOM ROOM, Mizerany’s directing and choreographing Altar Boyz will open at Coronado Playhouse on Jan. 20, 2017.