|SLANT, the performance ensemble
of Richard Ebihara, Wayland Quintero and Perry Yung, reinvents the notion of
ritual with "Wa Zu," a brand new music, choreographic and theatrical spectacle
about primitive pop culture. A monkey boy on a leash, a guitar-wielding ghostgirl
from a mountain village, a drum-banging, earth-stomping rock-'n-roll Mekong delta
dance and a driving score of "ancient funk" music combine to take the
audience on a journey of skewered dreams and cultural odysseys.
The work was inspired (though
not at all literally) by the trio's travels to the Yunnan Province of China--a
region bordering on Laos, Tibet and Myanmar (Burma)--in June 2001, courtesy
of a grant from DTW's Suitcase Fund. Images from the trip permeate this work,
but they might be unrecognizable to the Wa (the name of that indigenous culture)
or Zu (literally, minority people) of the region. The origin of only one
image is really distinguishable: SLANT's brooding, barechested "hair dance,"
in which big, long white hair is swung to sampled music, would be unmistakable
to anyone who has seen the locals of this region swing their locks in a ritual
dance of the hunt.
"Wa Zu" is also,
in part, about the theme of "cultural tourism." Video projections
show real-life clips of traditional and indigenous performers earning a living
in artificial villages built for tourists, students at a couple of overseas
performing arts schools, an ancient music ensemble performing in a mountain
resort, and line-dancing with local tribal women in front of a monastery. SLANT
accompanies the video journey with live shakuhachi flute, bouzouki (a three-string
guitar from the Middle East) and a Korean drum.
Its exotic origins notwithstanding,
"Wa Zu" is essentially an American avant-garde play on sounds, inspired
by theater styles the La MaMa threesome acquired while working under directors
Andrei Serban, Elizabeth Swados, Ping Chong and Ellen Stewart (among others),
mixing these with imagery from pop culture and modern dance. For example, when
the trio go running to the airport, it is to the accompaniment of Yoga sounds.
At the airport, their security check-in is a melange of security machine sounds
and security guard vocal sounds, mixed with a reggae beat on a drum machine.
It all develops into a Grahamesque dance number with the trio vocalizing to
Copeland's "Appalachian Spring." The nutsy-cookoo "plot"
involves the threesome parachuting from an airplane bound for Little Rock (told
through shadow puppetry) and landing in a "primitive" place filled
with monkey suits and dragon heads. Other highlights of the travel theme include
a "don't drink the water" diarrhea dance complete with flying toilet
SLANT is known for modern
dance-cum-rock-'n-roll musicals that are ingenious and outrageous. The Village
Voice (Laurie Stone) described SLANT's debut work, "Big Dicks Asian Men,"
as "a satirical revue as raucous as it is deadpan, as unironed as it is
deliberate, as piercing as it is self-exposing." Brad Bradley (Manhattan
Mirror) called it a "buoyant and at the same time adorable low-budget satire."
Reviewing a subsequent production at Pan Asian Rep, D.J.R. Bruckner (New York
Times) wrote, "SLANT must be incapable of dullness. This trio...seem inhabited
by a single mischievous and merry spirit. They are good, if loud, musicians;
they can dance; all are acrobats if not gymnasts, and no matter how much fun
they poke at other people, they laugh at themselves more than at anyone else."
The show's charm was not lost on out-of-town critics. The Philadelphia Weekly
wrote, "Through dance, rock, and inventive dialogue, their pithy lessons
induce convulsive laughter that makes their medicine easy to swallow and long-
lasting. They polish their limber bodies and deadly wit with a chamois drenched
in a winning sense of fun." LA Weekly opined, "SLANT is poised to
tweak the mainstream with their beyond SNL appeal."
The group followed with
"The Second Coming" (La MaMa, fall 1996), a sexual satire of their
genetic past and future through the saga of three innocent spermatozoa, racing
against time as they travel through vignettes of music, dance and theater. Matt
Stuart (Time Out) wrote, "Like a karate chop to the senses, the gifted
guys of SLANT kick some comic ass on the stage of La MaMa....This is a riotous
show quivering with an energy that would make the Blue Man Group proud."
Reviewing "Squeal Like a Pig" (1997), Anita Gates (New York Times)
wrote, "SLANT's appeal is its members' ability to exude childlike loveability
and create truly good-natured humor." Charles McNulty (Village Voice) added,"
SLANT has a way of throwing sticks of theatrical dynamite." The trio visited
karaoke purgatory in "wetSpot" (1999), a show that asked the question,
"Will I still be Asian when I'm dead?" Its last original work was
"High" (La MaMa, June 2000), which viewed the NYC subways as a true
multi-ethnic underground crossroads of the many characters of New York . The
Village Voice (Charles McNulty) called it "a little bit of rhythm and a
whole lot of madcap delight." City Search NY (Drew Pisarra) wrote, "Where
as Blueman and Stomp have invented lite experimental, SLANT reinvigorates the
genre with social satire." Last season, the group revived "Big Dicks
Asian Men" at La MaMa.
Richard Ebihara was raised
in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio. He has performed with Pan Asian Rep in "Forbidden
City Blues," "Cambodia Agonistes" and "Letters From a Student
Revolutionary" with Theaterworks USA in "From Sea to Shining Sea"
and "The Velveteen Rabbit." He has also performed with Chen and Dancers
in Symphony Space's Selected Shorts. He played the lead in "The Last Hand
Laundry in Chinatown" in 1999 at La MaMa.
Wayland Quintero was born
in the Philippines, grew up in Hawaii and performed in the Bay area before
moving to NYC in 1989. He has choreographed experimental dance works presented
by DTW, Dia Center, St. Mark's Danspace, Gowanus Arts Exchange and Workhouse
Theater. Quintero directed "Rajah Mangandiri" (La MaMa, December 2000), an
original dance and music version of "The Ramayana," the great Indian
classic, which was performed by Kinding Sindaw, a NYC troupe of 16 young artists
led by artistic director Potri Ranka Manis, the daughter of a Sultan from Mindanao,
Perry Yung is Chinese-American,
originally from San Francisco. He trained extensively there in Chinese dance,
martial arts and Martha Graham technique. He was a featured performer in
Ping Chong's "Deshima" and Theodora Skipitares' "Under the Knife III"
and a lead dancer in Muna Tseng's "The Pink," all at La MaMa. As a
member of La MaMa's Great Jones Repertory, he played the title role in the most
recent tour of Ellen Stewart's "Mythos Oedipus" and appeared in La
MaMa Umbria productions of Huseyin Katircioglu's "The Garden of the Deer"
and Andrea Pacciotto's "Geranos." He appeared in "The Trojan
Women," directed by Andrei Serban with music by Elizabeth Swados, in its
tour to Seoul, Korea, The Republic of China at Taipei, and most recently, Japan.
The three men of SLANT are
past recipients of a NYFA Fellowship and a Joseph Papp Public Theater Play Development