The 2002 “Rio Seco” (Dry River) is set in the elevated air of the Argentine pampas. Bucolic it is not. At the Queens Theatre in the Park on August 2 as part of this year’s Latino Cultural Festival, Grupo Krapp presented two works rooted in Beckett, Bausch and maybe “Modern Times.” The troupe of six wear sneakers but it’s more like boot camp.
The eleven-year-old group takes stock in the premiering “Proyecto E (antes no es ahora)” co-commissioned by Queens Theatre in the Park and LaGuardia College. It’s about the process of making a dance and how to keep the flame of creativity and favor, after years.
Luciana Acuña and Luis Biasotto direct, choreograph, and perform with the Buenos Aires based group. Their unique brand of theatre, fortified by salving dance and music, is rife with ribaldry that aroused a steady buzz of chuckling from our rapt audience.
The disheveled, Chaplinesque Fernando Tur is the consummate performer, playing both the accordion and piano while lying on his back. Tur carries his gangly, stooping form as if he’s too large for the stage.
In the dim light, the funny and sad Tur enters on his knees. Acuña sits on one of four or five clustered green chairs—a simple set like one of Ilya Kabakov’s institutional room installations. Acuña’s situation looks dire—she is wrapped in a blanket as if sleeping.
Their circular dance follows a recording of “chacareras,” Argentine folk music, played at fast and slow rpm. Their musicality, varied tempo, and appealing, skilled bodies in motion, is a ready recipe for success. At several intervals they lean on the chairs to watch a black and white video, fashioned to look like a film, and shown on a portable screen. The fast-moving clips from Pina Bausch’s “Café Mueller,” and other unidentified sources—a bathhouse, rodeo, footballers—congeal as a low-tech collage of inspirations, a brainstorm. Red concentric circles obscure the picture and the aperture of light closes.
Finally, Biasotto is lying face down with his rump and shoulders undulating while Acuña, undressed but for a pair of briefs, surfs on his back. It is very liberating to the singing and strumming of Gabriel Almendros and Tur in an upstage corner. As if in a dream, a muddy underwater scene vaguely emerges on the cyclorama.
Of the goofy hunks in trunks in “Rio Seco,” Biasotto stirs our ire in a slicked back wig. The women actually dance—enviably—but their toes are pigeoned, never pointed. All expert at stunts, “Rio Seco” involves a lot of falling and fighting. The women are tough but not that tough—they take the blows and rebound, jumping into the men’s arms in a round robin and then crashing to the floor. Later Noelia Leonzio and Acuña, an entrancing home-girl without a trace of black-and-blue, debut in body braces, and duet carefully to the edge of the stage where their faces meet in a lusty kiss. Their solidarity sweetens their mistreatment at the hands of bad-boy Biasotto.
Periodically a siren sounds and the cast runs, lining up to the left, only to jostle for different positions. The regiment breaks down though when the men’s bawdiness reaches a pinnacle; a contagious itch for pleasure takes over. Rubbing themselves through their shorts with varying success, Edgardo Castro, the most excited, finds himself caged under two chairs and we feel for the brave soul.
I recognized “Rio Seco” from Krapp’s bawdy full-evening “Mendiolaza,” at the 2004 American Dance Festival. Those program notes included a translation of the Spanish text. On seeing more of this group we may need less explanation. The new “Proyecto” envelops us in its subtle depth, comprehensible on a sensory and visceral level—with little spoken.