Art & Ideas - The New York Times
Tossing Expectation to the Winds

Thanks to Dave Feldman's misty lighting, the stage at the Kitchen was a mysterious but never threatening place on Wednesday night. And as Michael Moschen moved calmly through the haze, a shy smile sometimes flickered across his face. He seemed to be a man taking pleasure in a marvelous secret.

Mr. Moschen does have a secret. He knows how to work wonders. For 75 minutes or so, he produced one astonishment after another in "On the Shoulders of ...", the one-man show he has devised in choreographic collaboration with Janis Brenner.

Mr. Moschen is a juggler. But that simple statement, though accurate, fails to do justice to the enchantment of his presentation. Mr. Moschen turns juggling into a fine art, so that it grows akin to dance. And although the show has electronic music by David Van Tieghem that sounds like the accompaniment to a gentle dream, Mr. Moschen creates what could be called a visual music in space with his juggling.

By letting a small hoop slowly circle one arm. And then transferring it to his other arm without a break in the flow, his juggling had the effect of a lyrical andante. Another set of tricks began with Mr. Moschen sitting on the floor, keeping three balls constantly rolling around and over him. Rising to his feet, he juggled them, his hands moving with balletic grace. But the way he caused the balls to shift tempo unexpectedly, slowing them down only to let them accelerate with an irrepressibly perky energy, was reminiscent of a playful symphonic scherzo or a jazz musician's syncopations.

Much of what Mr. Moschen offers is unusual for its visual beauty as well as its virtuosity. The show opened with Mr. Moschen's juggling eight crystal spheres so effortlessly that these solid objects gave the impression of turning light as soap bubbles or even liquefying as they passed from hand to hand or glided up and down an arm.

An enormous hollow triangular construction dominated one sequence in this production designed by John Kahn, Anne Patterson and Mr. Moschen. Moving around and inside it, Mr. Moschen bounced balls off its interior and exterior walls until the noise of the balls became a kind of drumming. Then Mr. Moschen dropped the balls to the floor and bounced them up and down with movements of his feet in what was surely one of the most eccentric forms of tap dancing imaginable. Moments later, the balls whizzed so rapidly against the interior walls of the triangle that this object appeared to be transformed into a pinball machine.

Mr. Moschen let hoops of various sizes spin about him and charmingly fooled spectators into thinking that metal rods changed their shapes as he waved them in the air. He invited a man from the audience onto the stage and, standing behind him, juggled an apple and two eggs around the man's body, pausing occasionally to polish the apple in mid-flight.

Some of Mr. Moschen's tricks near the end of the show were not as striking to behold as those earlier in the proceedings. But there was never a dull moment.

Finally, Mr. Moschen whirled two flaming torches with such speed and intensity that one saw both globes of fire and, as after-images, streamers of light. An optical illusion was involved here. But Mr. Moschen's physical dexterity was no illusion. Then Mr. Moschen placed the lighted torches inside a box and solemnly shut its lid. The evening's magic was over.
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