Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Time to Dance

Photo: Damon Calderwood

In her wonderful new solo show (part of FringeNYC), Libby Skala channels her great-aunt, Elizabeth ("Lisl") Polk, who experienced just about all of the 20th century – both in timespan and in all it had to offer. As Ms. Skala tells it, before becoming a dance therapy pioneer in New York, Lisl grew up in Austria, was sent to Denmark for safekeeping during World War I, contracted and beat tuberculosis, got kicked out of a modern dance studio for the sin of studying ballet, and managed a harrowing (and apparently also magical) escape from the Nazis. That Ms. Skala is a confident and graceful dancer is clear from the nearly constant movement she weaves through the hourlong monologue. But what makes the show such a charming entertainment, aside from the meat of the story itself, is her remarkable skill as a comic actor, and the way character and actor fuse until we just about believe that Lisl herself, thick Austrian accent and all, is before us, telling story after story for us to laugh and wonder at. A Time to Dance is truly uplifting without being at all saccharine, and that is perhaps the greatest miracle of all.

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