Sunday, August 28, 2016

Passing Through Pig's Eye - Flying Foot Forum at Park Square

Photos by Rick Spaulding
Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum present Passing Through Pig's Eye:  It's a mouthful, and not easy to describe.

But here are a few words that come to mind: Enthralling, jaw-dropping, intense, athletic, funny, and engaging.

Oh, and must-see. Here's what the website says:
Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum present a characteristically bold new production throughout downtown Saint Paul inspired by the city’s past. Part enchanting history tour, part splashy dance party, Passing Through Pig’s Eye is a roving romp of wildly entertaining and eclectic dance, music and comedy.
The website description isn't inaccurate, but words are inadequate to encapsulate the experience.

Upon arrival in the lobby at Park Square's Andy Boss stage, guests are asked to choose a path for the evening, by choosing groups named for gangsters famed for spending time (between crimes) in Saint Paul. You can be a part of the Alvin "Creepy" Karpis gang (as we were) or Ma Barker's gang. Much of the evening includes the whole audience, but there are a few times when the groups are separated.

Throughout the evening, we learn pieces of Saint Paul's history, from its original namesake, Pierre "Pigs Eye" Parrant, through the gangster years, and even into the future. But the history lessons are decidedly overshadowed by the amazing dancing. Chvala and his talented company of dancers and musicians showcase percussive dance in a tremendous variety of forms and styles, ranging from traditional Broadway-style tapping to full-body contact. I don't really know the vocabulary to describe it, but it's amazing to watch. Along the way, we also learn that the rhythms the dancers create with are not so mysterious, but something we all can connect to. (Yes, that means audience participation, but it's very gentle.)

From the theater, the performance moves to different spaces and out to the streets of Saint Paul. The website suggests dressing comfortably and traveling light. There is some walking, and some standing, but there are elevators and chairs available for those who need them. And if audience participation is not your thing, know that, aside from the occasional stroll, any participation is strictly voluntary on your part. And if audience participation is your thing? You will love it.

Just some of the terrific cast of Passing Through Pig's Eye
Michelle Lemon, Joe Chvala, Molly Kay Stoltz, 
Ayana Dubose, Karla Grotting, Rush Benson. (Photo: Rick Spaulding)
This dance evening is extremely approachable, even for a dance novice like me, and the cast are engaging. I particularly enjoyed several pieces performed by Rush Benson and Brian J Evans, who displayed amazing athleticism and remarkable teamwork as well as wonderful acting and comic timing in their duets.

The audience is encouraged to return and see the show again on the alternate track. Twenty minutes in, I knew I already wanted to see it again. How can you be unhappy watching tap dancing? This show certainly kept me grinning for the full 2 1/2 hours (which flew by).

Passing Through Pig's Eye runs through September 11 at Park Square Theatre, Wednesday through Sunday with post-show discussions following the Friday evening performances and ASL interpretation for the Saturday, September 10 performance. Tickets are limited to keep tour group sizes reasonable, so do reserve in advance. Several people were turned away on opening night because the show was sold-out, so get your tickets while they last!

For a sampling of what you'll see at the show, check out this video from Three Minute Egg:

Joe Chvala convenes his Flying Foot Forum through a Pig's Eye tap dance from 3-Minute Egg on Vimeo.