Last weekend in Manhattan, Mary Seidman & Dancers presented the world premiere of "WeDOGS," a dance in six parts that celebrates the unrelenting spirit and boundless emotional capacity of man's best friend.
"I want the audience to feel a real appreciation for the canine world and the fact that dogs can bring out the best of us," said Mary Seidman, choreographer and artistic director of the dance group she started in 1990.
In addition to its resident dancers, the performance features seven children, ages 7 to 9, as pups, and master of canine melodies, Murry Weinstock, best known for his "Tails of the City."
Outside the Ailey Citigroup Theater, the ASPCA's mobile van showcased dozens of adoptable animals.
Seidman, a longtime dog, cat and bird lover, said the piece was inspired over the years by her observation of the increasing social phenomenon that has taken hold of this dog-crazed city.
"As a New Yorker, I was more and more impressed with the number of people who have dogs and the fact that dogs have become incredible members of the family," she said.
The former dancer and a teacher at Manhattan's Third Street Music School and the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, spent the past few years researching dog behavior, movements, and the sometimes blurred boundaries between humans and their canines.The opening piece, "Who's the Alpha?" features a sophisticated lady who while walking her dogs finds their roles interchanging.
Dogs, known for their pack mentality and devotion to an alpha leader, Seidman says, in many ways resemble her dancers: They love to work, are obedient and loyal, bask in praise from their audience and enjoy learning more tricks.
That camaraderie is also portrayed in "Buddies," in which three male dancers tear the stage apart in playful romping and male bonding. In "Ancestors," a man and woman grapple with the spiritual and emotional wilderness found in a wolf's howl.
But learning how to move and act like a dog was a challenge that Seidman said forced her dancers to move outside their strict technique.
To prepare for their debut as man's best friend, the dancers spent time on all fours at the Chelsea Piers dog run, mimicking facial movements and body gestures, like shaking, playing and scratching, among the multitude of dogisms.
But perhaps the toughest hurdle the dancers faced was learning to use the body to create the image of a wagging tail (without a costume), and mastering "Doggish, the show's official language."
So what does Seidman hope the audience will take from "WeDogs"?
"No matter what's going on in the world, dogs are dogs," she said. "They are relentlessly loyal, totally forgiving and really provide unconditional love."
For more information, call (212) 868-4444, or go to maryseidmananddancers.org.