ST. PETERSBURG — Salvador Dalí is a tricky subject for modern dance. His artworks are so distinctive and specific in their ideas that they don't leave much room for interpretation by music and choreography. What more is there to say about something as sensationally iconic as The Hallucinogenic Toreador?
Still, that didn't stop St. Petersburg composer A. Paul Johnson and Fuzion Dance Artists of Sarasota, who collaborated on Hello Dalí, a evening-length dance inspired by 11 Dalí paintings. Directed by Leymis Bolanos Wilmott and Kristin O'Neal, it was performed Wednesday night at the Salvador Dalí Museum, as part of the Florida Dance Festival.
The only festival presentation this year held away from the University of South Florida in Tampa, it made for a stimulating occasion, as the museum was open beforehand and you could look at paintings portrayed in the dancing.
The performance drew a standing-room-only crowd of 145 in a small back room of the museum normally used for lectures and the occasional chamber music concert. Though far from ideal for dance, the carpeted space was resourcefully set up for the piece, with white fabric draped on the walls and Celeste Silsby's moody lighting. The 10 barefoot dancers zoomed around and through the audience as they entered and exited the narrow performance area.
You would be hard pressed to match Johnson's music to the paintings that inspired him. Suffice it to say that the score (a recording featuring electronic keyboards, an orchestra and weirdly processed vocals) was totally zany in a Charlie Chaplin or Keystone Cops sort of way, and at about 45 minutes, symphonic in scope. It ranged from tinny, tuneless keyboard figures to droll, bouncy pop to a hurdy-gurdy sonata at the end.
Fuzion danced Hello Dalí at the museum a year ago, and it brought off Wednesday's performance with confident panache. Wilmott was the Dalíesque ringleader of the troupe, sporting a little mustache, paintbrush in hand and a droopy clock face atop her hat. The choreography sometimes was too literal in depiction of Dalí's imagery, and it took a while for the dancing to get past exposition and into full flight — not until about 15 minutes into the piece did the first big lifts and spins occur— but once it did, there were exhilarating performances. Highlights included the sexy, funny pas de deux (plus fish) by Alyson Dolan and Jahrel Thompson; the acrobatics of Angela Rauter; and Carolina Garcia's squirt gun battle.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.