This Ring of Fire

A duet by WR Artistic Director Dan Safer and renowned dancer / choreographer Ishmael Houston-Jones

2009 Dance New Amsterdam, NY

Here’s a thought: what if the artists on future split bills were required to collaborate? If they couldn’t come up with something at least as interesting as what Ishmael Houston-Jones and Dan Safer managed on Thursday night at Dance New Amsterdam, bye-bye split bill. Just think of all the odd-couple pairings the dance world would be spared.

“This Ring of Fire,” created and performed by Mr. Houston-Jones and Mr. Safer, had its premiere as the conclusion of their shared evening, “Splice: Panic Journals.” It was built around a set of structured improvisations. Mr. Houston-Jones is a master of these, having built a delicious career out of winging it. But Mr. Safer kept up, using flustered moments to his advantage.

“Live theater, folks,” he said with a strained grin, exhaling after Mr. Houston-Jones hit him in a delicate spot during one tussling section.

Both men, by this point, were stripped down to colorful ruffled panties, boots and suit jackets, taking turns being blindfolded and following the other’s often malicious orders. Variations of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” played as they matched wits and bodies, revealing a tough-edged vulnerability beneath the swirling, beer-guzzling bravado. Let’s hope a Part 2 comes soon.
— Claudia LaRocco, New York Times