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Flash Review Journal 2, 5-22: Joyce
Two Programs Demonstrate Intimate Angst
By Diane Vivona
Copyright 2001 Diane Vivona
Joyce SoHo Presents is a panelist-curated
show. Choreographers submit videotapes, panelists review these and select pieces
to present. This year Joyce SoHo limited the amount of videos accepted to the
first hundred that arrived in the post; out of these thirteen works were chosen.
This is a coveted position for emerging choreographers. To be selected is both
a form of recognition by the dance community and, perhaps more significantly,
a show of support by the ever fickle, oft-wooed presenter contingent. Coming from
the Joyce Theater's younger, hipper sister, Joyce SoHo Presents could reflect
a curatorial perspective which forecasts the Joyce's future programming; or it
could simply represent what sticks out when panelists are faced with a glut of
video viewing -- coffee cups, notebooks and eye drops in hand. In either case,
this group show is significant in its overall representation of independent, primarily
self-produced choreographers. Of the eight dances viewed the last two weekends,
six presented worlds in which emotional turmoil manifested as spatial confinement.
Bodies twisted and pursed, some resolving in surrender, others fighting -- till
the end. Apocalyptic? No. The intensity level never raises to such a high or expansive
social pitch. These choreographers' works are intimate and private, though presented
for public witness.
The program seen May 11 began with
Jorelle Pome's solo "Exiled Owl." Pome is a striking performer who is not afraid
to use her body in unconventional, non-dancerly ways. Her movement includes the
strain of deliberately sickled feet as well as the dynamic explosion of shoulder-popping
street steps. She becomes, rather than performs this creature and in so doing
the individual movements are transformed into the quirky palette of a nature show.
Caged and inspected, in close up or slow motion, this voyeurism is not unpleasant,
but , as in any nature show, we long to set this animal free.
Marilynn Danitz's duet, "Breaking
the Envelope," is an unfortunate work which has two very capable dancers trapped
within the confines of cliched victimization. Kindra Windrish and Emma Nagata
appear pained and airless in brightly coloured negliges. Their task, it seems,
is to sigh heavily in both body and breath; they collapse and kick, reaching for
each other and then swatting at themselves in reprimand for any display of tenderness.
Surprisingly, there is no external motivation for this harsh sadism. The dancers'
punishment is self-inflicted, a torture which in the 21st century seems surprisingly
small minded. These unemancipated women would make Susan B. Anthony turn in her
Dagmar Spain also presented an angst-ridden
all-female duet. According to the program, "Over There" explores heroism through
goddess archetypes: Persephone as the embodiment of submission, Athena as the
embodiment of strength. One dancer represents each goddess and this separation
of character reduces rather than clarifies Spain's position. Persephone is clearly
vulnerable and unhappy. There is a sense that her softness is a retreat from abuse,
rather than an embrace of compassion. Athena is fierce in her high releves, but
she is also cold and detached. Together they create a strangely disconnected pair.
The perspective could be that Athena antagonizes Persephone. Or that the two represent
conflicting aspects of femininity. Either interpretation seems disturbingly reductive
and old fashioned. The use of P.J. Harvey's music further trivializes Spain's
"Parallelogram for Rags and Prayers,"
by Fiona Marcotty, is a high-energy work exploring the turmoil of interacting
with the opposite sex, the same sex, and a variety of household objects. Marcotty
seems inspired by the small interruptions these real things have on the body and
psyche, and she is able to expand that into a cascade of flying limbs, exposed
torsos, and flailing objects. Witnessing such unrest pulls at your internal comfort
zone: you want to offer these dancers Prozac or at least a hug and a pillow. Their
world is fraught with hard things -- mismatched shoes, folding chairs, a plastic
bowl, a wire hairbrush --- and their bodies respond in kind. There is sexual writhing
and squirming but it is all hard effrontery, thwarted and misunderstood impulses
to get close that repel. This community of movers quake together and suffer alone.
No one has the strength to see or watch, but we do, to our sorrow.
This last weekend's program, seen
May 17, proved stronger than the previous weekend's, and infinitely more watchable.
"Intersection," by newcomer Lenore E. Eggleston, is a well-crafted work for four
dancers. Clad in the costume du jour -- lingerie -- these women slice and scoop
the air with their arms and legs, effusively showing off their contemporary balletic
technique. Eggleston is able to create phrases that travel fluidly, punctuated
by frequent changes of level in gesture as well as locomotion. This keeps the
interest up, as the dynamic of punch, shoot, and roll is surprising, even in its
repetition. A more mature choreographer might have avoided the use of Arvo Part's
masterful score. It is a difficult piece to live up to. Also stemming from youthful
vigor is the overly dramatic use of breath and the performers' intense but purposeless
gaze. Nevertheless, Ms. Eggleston has a firm grasp of movement composition. Time
and experience can only contribute to this.
Marla Bingham is an extraordinary
performer -- a diva who captivates. In her improvised solo, "As I Hear it," Ms.
Bingham is delightful purely because of her physicality. She is gifted with a
lithe facility and has had the opportunity and discipline to train her body to
respond to her every wish. In her many years as a performer, she has also developed
an eagerly expressive face and expansive dynamic range. Her lightning ability
to shift from one specific image to another with all of its contrived intricacy
is astounding. This piece was sheer enjoyable entertainment.
Dawn Stoppiello and Anthony Gongora
explore the decay and renewal of friendship in view of mortality in their duet
"Flowing of Honey." I cannot help but see these two as twins, connected at the
hip and heart through their similar ways of moving, their similar expressions
of self. Stoppiello conveys a profound fear, Gongora a blind hopefulness. Together
they show the balance of see-sawed feelings. At its best this duet's partnering
flows in gestures of familiarity taken to extremes: "I can hit you, or smother
you or leap over you or copy you and you will accept all of me" is the implication.
At its worst, this duet is self-consciously funny: "It is uncomfortable to be
so honest. Break. A funny. Ha -ha." The clearest moments expose and invite. The
humorous moments brace and exclude. Stoppiello and Gongora brave their friendship
to the rigors of composition with varying effect. But one thing is certain: When
they dance together there is comfort.
Erik Kaiel and Fiona Marcotty's work,
"From the Ends of the Boulevards," is an open wound of fecundity. The work begins
with Kaiel's naked body powerfully contracting and sinking under a fading downstage
light. In front of him, Marcotty sits with legs spread. She is surrounded by empty
electrical socket boxes. This opening image sets the tone for metaphor, but the
movement could not be further from such intellectual devices. This movement is
not semblance. Kaiel repeatedly performs a series of one-handed inverted cabrioles,
his legs in penile erection. He then runs full speed in an arc from one side of
the space to the other, stopping just before toppling into the audience. He is
the epitome of explosive taut muscularity; we feel his imminent eruption. Sitting
on the electrical outlets, Marcotty is all flesh and softness. She is wearing
a thin gauzy slip that enhances her round feminine figure. She stands and supports
herself as if on high heels on the edge of two boxes. She overflows into movements
both seductive and protective. It is as if she can't help but spill out into our
laps; she is not embarrassed. Throughout the duet the two do not touch, which
only heightens the air's electrical charge. They exchange only a whisper: he to
her first. She listens, has a moment of recognition, a cognitive awareness, and
then swoons, escaping to the other side of the stage. Later she whispers to him.
Kaiel lies in Sisyphean agony, his head and feet on the boxes, running in the
air to nowhere. Marcotty leans over, murmuring into his open ear. There is a flash
of response, like a baby hearing his mother's voice. Marcotty retreats, then raises
her dress overhead revealing pink flesh, the round spheres of woman. She rocks
gently, her dress a flag, a flowering signal for her bees; succor.
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