Review: The wham-bam “1.1 Holiday Revue Special’

 Julia Higdon and, in the background, Tommy Schimmel in 'The 1.1 Holiday Revue Special' from Brian Sanders' JUNK dance company. (Photo courtesy of Ted Lieverman)

Julia Higdon and, in the background, Tommy Schimmel in 'The 1.1 Holiday Revue Special' from Brian Sanders' JUNK dance company. (Photo courtesy of Ted Lieverman)

“The 1.1 Holiday Revue Special” is 1.1 hours of swooping and swirling fun, a kinetic and athletic display by five dancers in Brian Sanders’ JUNK company. Sanders’ work is ripe with dangerous dangling and raw physicality, and I’m always impressed by its theatrical quality. As a holiday show, the sheer demands on the dancers – and their ability to meet them (and then some) – make the revue a pleaser for both kids and adults.

Sanders’ choreography is as graceful as it is brazen. You get to see a wide range of it, because “The 1.1 Holiday Revue Special” is a celebration of more than two decades of Sanders’ work, including bits from his Children’s Theater Program that’s toured nationally, lots of segments from the Philly Fringe shows that feature his company regularly, and some of the work he’s done for the troupe MOMIX.


In all, 20 pieces, or pieces of pieces, compose the revue, and they whiz by as if they’ve been tightly cut together in a film editing room. One moment, Tommy Schimmel and Peter Jones are maneuvering on a moving, suspended ladder; the next, Kelly Trevlyn comes as close as possible to dancing in a hammock without ever standing up. Her movement is constant and beguiling. In another segment, she and Julia Higdon spar and play and it’s hard to tell when the playing morphs into competition and back again.

Theodore Fatcher’s underwater study is sheer gymnastic beauty on a suspended rack; at another point, an underwater study is performed by Schimmel on a mat. Peter Jones is a maestro gone wild as he conducts Vivaldi — Jones seems to be all over the place, even though his feet and lower legs are in boots nailed to the floor. It’s a showy study in movement. And, as Sanders would have it, pogo sticks come into play.

Melissa Mann’s lighting is on the money for the different segments. The program doesn’t list a costume designer, yet the bright costumes with big dots give this show most of its holiday feel. In one delightful dance in which they play exhausted characters, they even look like Santa’s rejects.

In a revue of work that spans so many years, you can hear the way Sanders precisely welds movement to a wide range of music, everything from klezmer to Tom Waits to John Denver to the classics. The locally-based Sanders has by now done enough work that he can mine his own classics, making them this revue.

“The 1.1 Holiday Revue Special,” produced by Brian Sander’s JUNK, runs through Jan. 3 at Sanders’ studio, 2040 Christian St., near 21st Street and to one side of Shiloh Baptist Church.

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