THIS IS HEAVEN TO ME choreography by danny grossman, with Twisted and Curious Schools Of Dancing: Part 1, March 1-10, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm. $15-$18. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander). 416-975-8555. it's a little more than a week be- fore opening night, and Danny Grossman is worried. Not because of his art. The city's best-known choreographer has survived decades of rehearsals and opening nights.
This time around, though, he's got laryngitis. He can barely speak. Yesterday he couldn't at all. Today you might call him the hoarse whisperer.
"Ten days I've had this," he tells me, his eyes bulging, his trembling lips an inch away from my tape-recorder.
"Yesterday I got mad as a hornet and said to this flu virus, or whatever it is I have, "I am so angry at you!' It worked a bit. I tried to be passive before, and nothing happened."
Grossman passive? It doesn't seem possible. He's one of the city's most articulate and enthusiastic dance artists. Also one of the most prolific.
His latest show, opening tonight (Thursday) at Buddies in Bad Times, includes a world premiere called This Is Heaven To Me. Set in a cruisy men's washroom, it features an average-joe janitor fantasizing about an idealized Adonis figure while a chorus of Esther Williams-like water spirits move, Busby Berkeley-style, around them.
Grossman and his designer were inspired to set the piece in the 1920s because of the art deco period's combination of form and function. The washroom set is made up of copper piping with deco flourishes and gauzy fabric.
"Workplaces were beautiful then. These practical buildings had wonderful ornamentation," says Grossman. "The janitor's job and life are mundane and practical, but his dreams and fantasies are as elaborate as the art deco decorations.
"I also wanted to show the beauty of a whole other lifestyle," says the openly gay Grossman, "without any of the danger involved -- from cops, disease, whatever."
Although This Is Heaven To Me will eventually, like all of Grossman's work, travel down to the Premiere Dance Theatre, the choreographer admits it's fitting that the show is premiering at Buddies, located in the heart of the gay village.
During intermission, the audience can catch a performance inspired by the Clichettes, the groundbreaking lip-sync trio who played with issues of gender and sexuality in the 70s and 80s.
And the idea of washroom sex won't be as shocking to a Buddies crowd as it might be to a PDT crowd.
"It's great to be premiering a work in a venue where it will be understood from the beginning."
As for his lack of voice, he's whispering instructions to some dancers, giving notes to others. He's using body language, relying on his associate artistic director, Pamela Grundy.
"The older I get, I don't spend as much time yelling anyway," he says. "The dancers tend to know what I want. Still, everyone seems thrilled that I can't speak.
"I don't know why." *