Last Dance, The Forgotten Masters is a tribute to the spirit of the masters who have influenced Aaron Cash’s extraordinary career. He has, after all, worked with Cher, Twyla Tharp and Mikhail Baryshnikov – was one of the original Tap Dogs and creator of Ballet Revolucion.
Aaron Cash sings, cracks jokes, tells stories using countless convincing accents, interacts with the audience easily and dances like a master of dance. In short, Aaron Cash is a showman and a really good one at that.
“Dance is a finite art form,” says Cash during one of his monologues, and “the goddess of dance is a jealous lover; she takes her own too soon.” But Cash, who has worked with the best has had a very long career and now, has found a real niche in cabaret with this tribute show.
Dressed formally in a velvet jacket, Cash starts the show sitting at a bar telling us about his father’s ability to talk to spirits and then proceeds to pour out three spirit drinks. Thankfully he apologizes for this awful pun later in the show.
The first spirit, schnapps, takes us to Berlin in the inter-war years, the period of Weimar Germany when cabaret was in its heyday. We are introduced to Marlene Dietrich’s personal choreographer Gunther von Pantzapfel (I think I got that right because my research didn’t reveal anything about this character. It doesn’t take long before you get the idea that Cash is having a whole lot of fun fictionalising facts and stretching credibility as far as he can get away with).
This convincing portrayal of the high camp flamboyant and at the same time vulgar choreographer is a caricature embodiment of the wildly excessive cabaret performers in Weimar Germany. Gunther invented Marlene Dietrich’s signature move, “the untsch” which then metamorphosed into the Nazi goose step. Using a hilarious German accent, Cash takes us to the Weimar Cabarets, to Marlene Dietrich’s “Blue Angel”, through to the evil depravity of Nazi Germany, the disdain for intellectual property, the persecution of Jews and homosexuals, concentration camps and escape to the United States for the lucky few.
Gunther may have escaped a violent death for being gay in Nazi Germany, but a violent death and a last dance awaited him in the southern states of America at the hands of gay bashing rednecks. Yet even while facing a certain death at the hands of these violent thugs, Gunther dances his Last Dance, before crumpling up into his signature “untsch” pose. “Even in death you can “untsch”, says Cash.
By the time the second spirit is conjured, this time with the help of a strong Spanish spirit, you realise just how wicked Cash’s humour is and just how clever he is in creating mental images of these fancifully exotic places. The second spirit inhabits the world of Gypsy Flamenco in Seville. Where Gunther explores homosexuality and dance, Rafael Garcia is a virulently masculine dancer who was taught how to satisfy women from a very young age.
His Last Dance came to be when he was bitten on the bum by a tarantula, causing him to improvise an outrageously funny hybrid of tarantella, flamenco and strip tease – he had to, of course, shed his clothes because he was getting too hot from the venom of the tarantula bite. Makes sense. Right? The fun thing about this is that Cash is a wildly talented dancer and showman having as much of a laugh as he can get away with, while at the same time giving the audience some interesting insights into the world of dance.
For the finale of this trilogy of The Forgotten Masters, we are taken to seventies Manhattan, New York. This is the world of Andy Warhol and Martha Graham, experimental art and the AIDS epidemic. This was the time when everything had to experimental; there were no boundaries and rules were meant to broken. Our third forgotten master, Peter Brown achieved early fame by being frozen in an ice cube and then dancing when he thawed out. Here Cash was “taking the piss” out of creativity without boundaries. Literally. Taking a long piss on stage after thawing out from the ice cube and then drinking it was a very pointed comment about expressive dance. Yet these wildly engaging and excessive creatives that inhabited the streets of Manhattan are treated with irreverent fun yet charming endearment in the hands of Cash.
The comedy here is bawdy and irreverent, and true to the scenario that Cash created, the Last Dance of our third hero us called “Death of a Sewerage Man”. And as this dancer, misunderstood and berated by “Up the Arts” Magazine, lay dying of AIDS, his only friend, Mrs Mac, leaves him with these parting words, “You have found your people. You have found your audience”.
With Last Dance, The Forgotten Masters, Aaron Cash definitely found his people and audience at The Adelaide Cabaret Festival. This was a wonderful show full of energetic dancing and very bawdy and funny story telling. He has got a great singing voice with a fantastic backing band – percussion, trumpet and keyboard. I just wish their names were in the programme notes so that I could acknowledge them.
The only shame is that this show was only on for two nights. I am sure that he would pack out a season once the word got out just how freakishly good this show is. Mr Cash, you are a Master and hopefully you have more shows like this one ready to be tapped out on stage.
Cabaret Festival Review By Bob Becker