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Peter Pucci Plus Dancers

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Pucci: Sport--it sounds like a new perfume. But in fact it's a crowd-pleasing, often humorous evening-length mix of dance and athletic games. Designed to be played in nine "innings," this four-year-old work offers choreographer Peter Pucci's takes on such endeavors as boxing, Frisbee throwing, surfing, tennis, badminton, and golf. Clearly Pucci has the sports fan in mind--the piece opens with a request that everyone rise for the national anthem. But his sly takes on choreographic classics and cliches reward the dance enthusiast. The baseball section, set to vaulting string music by Vivaldi, recalls Paul Taylor's 1975 "white ballet" Esplanade with its running, sliding, and graceful punctuation of the music. The basketball section veers from an African dance with dribbled balls for rhythm to a takeoff on Swan Lake complete with basketballs artfully lofted in a manner reminiscent of early-20th-century eurythmics. A tennis player's victory jig merges with break dancing. Given the piece's wide variety of music, sports, and dance forms, there should be something here for everyone. But the work's populist approach is sometimes its downfall: the hockey section features a player on Rollerblades whose grasp of a female companion with two sticks, complete with leering look at the audience, is as cartoonish as dance gets. Pucci, a former athlete who formed this troupe 17 years ago, used to be a Pilobolus dancer--and it shows in his concerted, often imaginative efforts to entertain. North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300. Saturday, November 22, 8 PM. $36.

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