Fresh off the bench 

Philly Fringe 2019: FringeArts presents Un Poyo Rojo’

In
3 minute read
An instantaneous draw: Nicolás Poggi and Luciano Rosso in ‘Un Poyo Rojo.’ (Photo by Ishka Michocka.)
An instantaneous draw: Nicolás Poggi and Luciano Rosso in ‘Un Poyo Rojo.’ (Photo by Ishka Michocka.)

Un Poyo Rojo (A Red Stone Bench) may stand in for a hard bed. But the title of the show comprises the first two syllables of each performer’s name. Nicolás Poggi and Luciano Rosso, stars of Argentina’s stage, TV, and YouTube, invented this ever-evolving show 10 years ago. It’s been traveling worldwide to enthusiastic applause ever since, but this is its first North American tour. It landed in Pittsburgh, then headed to Philly’s curated Fringe Festival, and goes on to multiple appearances in Canada.

I first saw them at La Biennale Danza in Venice last June, and have hardly stopped thinking about these wild guys ever since. In Venice, they performed on Teatro Piccolo Arsenale’s large proscenium stage where my sight-line was back in the middle seats.

On the roller coaster

On Thursday, at Philly’s opening night at Christ Church Neighborhood House, it was a small black-box stage. The dancers stretched, cantered around, and did jumping-jacks in the shadows, keeping their muscles warm for 15 minutes until the packed audience was finally seated. This felt like being in a bedroom with them, until the lights finally came up, revealing Poggi and Rosso standing motionless, up close and personal with the audience in front of a set made up of lockers and the bench. At first poker-faced, the dancers’ eyes flicked slightly on each other and at the audience, a shoulder lifted, and soon we were on their inimitable roller-coaster ride with them.

Over the summer, I’ve seen some 35 dance concerts at festivals in Europe, and these performers were among the few who instantaneously drew the audience into their schema. Namely, a dance-theater work that rollicked through seduction, flirtation, coyness, male Eros, and macho posturing that created an epistemology of physical attraction. Everyone caught each gesture’s meaning, whether sly or overt.

Each year they add some ingenious new shtick to their 60-minute show. The sheer whippiness of their dancing never lets up, while the two create a powerhouse that caroms from ballet to tennis to soccer and to be sure, some macho wrestling moves. Among them, headlocks—a takedown technique if ever there was. These moves cut off as abruptly as they begin and lead inevitably to another form of play (towel-snapping, anyone?). Rosso stalks his quarry on all fours, his shoulder blades rising a foot above his back while Poggi feigns indifference. Did I mention Rossi has the most pliant body ever? And while pushing his features into impossible arrangements, he makes comic faces to match, from winsomely in love to goofy clownishness.

A welcome bed

Under the direction of Hermes Gaido, they impale flamenco, burlesque ballet, harpoon hip hop, and wickedly mock all things “male.” They’ve done their dance history research and the references from Swan Lake to Judson Church are numerous and subtle. At one point, Rosso packs multiple cigarettes into his mouth, ears, and nose, impossibly manipulating them every which way. It recalls Lucinda Childs’s art stunt, Carnation, where she stuffs a “sandwich” of multicolored sponges into her mouth while wearing an upended salad-dryer filled with sponge curlers like a bonnet.

Can you parody vogueing, already a parody? Poggi and Rosso—on demi-point—just do it. We don’t see them get any further than making out on the hard bench, but after watching these guys brutalize their bodies with this workout, my hope is they get a soft bed to lie on. After an hour of sidesplitting laughter, you may need one, too.

What, When, Where

Un Poyo Rojo. Choreography by Nicolás Poggi and Luciano Rosso. Through September 21, 2019 at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street, Philadelphia. (215) 413-1318 or fringearts.com.

Christ Church Neighborhood House has ADA-compliant restrooms and an elevator to the fourth-floor performance space, though the surrounding neighborhood streets can be challenging. There is floor-level seating available.

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