THere are several reasons to catch Gillmer Duran's "Cash & Cline." One is key dancer Elizel Long, an animated, articulated pipe cleaner of a dancer who dominates the stage whenever she's on it, which is most of the time.
The other is the effectiveness of the idea - contemporary dance accompanied by the music of Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. The pathos and grit of the songs seems ennobled by the motions from Alaska Dance Theatre's troupe of professionals. The unison of action is much better than what we usually see locally and the athleticism of the performers is something that should be applauded - and was on opening night, Friday, at the Discovery Theatre. Barry Kerollis' spins and heel-over-head kicks in his solo, "I Walk the Line" and "Ring of Fire," a duet with Long, made some in the crowd holler with enthusiasm.
The live musicians - Jamie Hartford and band and Melissa Mitchell - also drew their own applause, Hartford calmly channelling Cash and Mitchell, best known for her own folk/alt songs, almost unrecognizable in a beehive hairdo and black dress for her renditions of Cline weepers.
Long and Kerollis may have been the standouts, but the rest of the group of four men and four women also shined. The big company piece, "Folsom Prison Blues," was especially rousing.
Duran left a classical feel in the choreography, like the symmetry of four women performing to "Strange" followed by four men in "Cry, Cry, Cry." In general Cash and Cline songs alternated. Between songs historic recordings of the stars or other stars talking about them filled space, which may not have been the best idea. The evening would have felt more compact without them and the balance was so lopsidedly Cash - who outlived Cline by nearly 50 years and left a proportionately larger legacy - that one began to feel the female hitmaker was being slighted.
Nonetheless, with the finale, "Hurt," one couldn't help but be moved. There was a long standing ovation. It seems reasonable that "Cash & Cline," presented with light, easy-to-travel forces and set to music and themes that are universal in America, could travel outside Alaska and get an equally positive reception.
The final performance will happen at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23.