Best Dada Primer Without the Urinals

Striding Lion Performance Groups's Dada Gert

Critics' Picks

Striding Lion's Annie Arnoult Beserra can tuck a manifesto into a dance so it's visible just under the surface, like a hand in a hand puppet. In the evening-length Dada Gert, she and her dancers slip into readymade roles—whore, wet nurse, witch, pimp, angel, waiter—and spin them into kaleidoscopic combinations. The readymades are inspired by the show's muse, Valeska Gert, a transgressive Jewish dancer/performance artist/film star in Weimar-era Berlin who epitomized Dada's anarchic gravitas. Appropriately enough, the mulligan stew of ideas here is funny rather than didactic—Gert was the John Belushi of cabaret, a ferocious, crazy-faced goof the dancers mimic as they jump and scissor kick, screaming on the downbeats. Jeff Hancock's set and costumes put the audience amid the clutter of Beggar Bar and the Witches' Den, the ramshackle cabaret-restaurants Gert opened in New York and Berlin, respectively. At first the dance is hostile, but good satire perturbs before it softens, and soon enough I felt as up to mischief as (to borrow from "Howl") Carl Solomon throwing potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism.