by Angela Sutton
Multimodal music ensemble The International Street Cannibals swam into St. Marks-in-the-Bowery on Sunday night for an eclectic mix of water-themed works. Although music provided the core discipline for the event, video, the spoken word, and dance were all represented. St. Marks' sanctuary functioned as a black box theater, with its wooden floor serving as a notional swimming pool for slithering dance routines that often resembled a low-budget Busby Berkeley routine.
The program featured three original premieres, plus one premiered paraphrase (Daniel Palkowski's reworking of Ravel's "A Boat on the Ocean"). Of the new works, Jill Jaffe's neo-Romantic "look sea, she lives" wa perhaps the most cogent. The small orchestra of nine players gave the work a good read, sounding almost symphonic in the echoing sanctuary.
Ives' "The Pond" also benefitted from one of the dancers' better efforts, effectively communicating a loose but clear narrative. In many of the other numbers, the dancers primarily engaged in attempting to cross the floor without using hands or feet—fun to watch as an acrobatic exercise, but otherwise distracting. Indeed, with so many things going on at any given moment, the program's biggest drawback was its lack of focus. Various art forms moved on parallel tracks, but were seldom part of one aggregate statement.
Perhaps, however, this is ISC's point: loosening the straitjackets that usually bind listeners during live music events. At the close, conductor and founding director Dan Barrett led the gang in a version of Taj Mahal's "Fishing Blues," with freely improvised dance, jazz vocals from Rob Solomon, and hand clapping from the audience in the balcony—an interactive alliance for intellectual entertainment.
ISC's next event takes place on Friday 10/19 at Spectrum.