FRINGE SHORTS: “Femme de la Swashbuckle Box” by Christine Maginnis

Lightsey Darst responds to the Freudian jungle of Christine Maginnis' lurid, over-the-top dance fantasy, "Femme de la Swashbuckle Box."


CHRISTINE MAGINNIS‘S FEMME DE LA SWASHBUCKLE BOX lives up to its outré name, unleashing a storm of sailors, mermaids, divers, masters, mistresses, and sexual swimmers in a Freudian jungle of red dresses, red sashes tossed like flower bombs, red stains, blood, wounds, bleeding, and blades. A couple swing each other over, through, onto, and under an inflatable mattress; a dreamer nearly leaps off the stage, caught (saved or enslaved?) at the last minute by a rope around her waist; a marquis and marquise lounge lustfully in their parlor, while behind them a projection flashes trippily through the mad details of a Victorian narrative painting, showing the mayhem in the marriage.

Nightmares, fantasies, murders, births — welcome to the First Church of the Bed. Devotees of subtlety may want to steer clear of this sextravaganza, but come on, live a little: revel in the overload.

To pile it on like this, you’ve got to have some tough underlying structure, and in her choreography Maginnis proves she paid attention during her quarter century dancing for Zenon. Her movement’s at its best when trajectories are clear, when you can plainly tell what the dancers are tumbling, crawling, swirling, or hurling themselves towards. When the emotional scenario is less clear, as in the more celebratory and less disturbed last section, Maginnis’s restless- and recklessness gets muddy, the smear of her motion more mess than passion. Still, with these all-star dancers (Maginnis herself, Greg Waletski, Stephen Schroeder, Rachel Barnes, Debra McGee, and Jane Shockley having a heap of fun), it’s all more than watchable.

Femme gets extra traction from an overall arc, as Maginnis evolves from a woman who longs for the free flow of the sea but can’t swim like her fishy lover to a full-fledged mermaid. Maybe the final transformation comes a bit too easy to quite convince, but when Maginnis comes slithering off the stage at the end of the show, I’m willing to go with her. Where to?


Related performance details:

Femme de la Swashbuckle Box by Christine Maginnis is on stage at the Ritz Theater Proscenium; remaining shows: August 11 (8:30 pm), 13 (10 pm), 14 (1 pm)

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About the author: Originally from Tallahassee, Lightsey Darst is a poet, dance writer, and adjunct instructor at various Twin Cities colleges. Her manuscript Find the Girl has just been published by Coffee House; she has also been awarded a 2007 NEA Fellowship. She hosts the writing salon, “The Works.”