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Flash Review 3, 2-4: Come Together
Jodi's Body, Schick's Flicks, and Other Sounds of Silence from Susan Rethorst

By Nicole Pope
Copyright 2002 Nicole Pope

NEW YORK -- A silence during Friday's performance of Susan Rethorst's "Behold Bold Sam Dog," made sacred by the knowing walls of St. Mark's Church and made fragile by a sense that it would soon be interrupted, filled the Danspace Project stage on which a group of three dancers sat or lay, moving slowly through gestures of relationship and internal thought. Only the soft creaking of the wood floor impeded upon this quiet image you hoped would last the entire piece, but the sound adds a tenderness to the moment on stage and an echo to the magnificent hush.

Dmitri Shostakovich's "Jazz Suite, Waltz 2" crashes into the space, jolting some of the audience members, as two dancers join the three to present a more varied mix of movement. Some perform large grand battements to the front as others wave their hands as if shooing away a pesky bee, or dog, or child from their rears. They stop to bring their right and left fingertips together, creating a horizon on which their thumbs sit facing each other. Gazing through this frame-like gesture, they bend their thumbs as if attempting to preserve what they see with the snap of a camera button. The grandiose section is a more kinetic version of the moment that preceded it, one of group activity and the distractions of inner thought.

Silence returns in the first of several duets between Vicky Shick and Jodi Melnick. Their relationship comes to be about balance -- a balance they create for each other. Melnick performs erratic leaps and jumps, flicking gestures that slap the air and herself, moments of poise, and then a wriggling of the body, as if shaking out a thought or as though her body is completely unconnected to her mind. While Shick's focus is very much with herself, concentrated on what she is doing, Melnick's is at times with the audience, at times deeply internal and troubled looking, at times with an unseen presence in the space, at times at peace, and at times with her partner, giving the appearance that she is dealing with parts of herself that cannot always be kept under control. At one point, Melnick stops and Shick approaches her much in the manner that an instructor would, and with an intent as though she sees where the trouble is, she places a hand on Melnick's arm and they leave the stage together.

Another cycle of Shostakovich follows. The seemingly random movement vocabulary was infused with intention by Erin Fitzgerald, Taryn Griggs, Sarah Perron, Melnick, and Shick, through the dancers' dedication to the movements and hyper-awareness. This movement vocabulary creates very complex situations on stage, whether the action is dense, subtle, or still.

After another duet between Shick and Melnick, in which the former calms the latter almost as one would win the trust of a stray, Susan Rethorst trots onstage controlled by the downbeat of silence, with shoulders falling to the weight of gravity. Her entrance, though unassuming, breaks a pattern that has been set up in the piece. She continues this way around the stage like a rabbit or a dog, roaming for a comfortable place to stop. Rethorst does stop, and with a very instinctual rhythm and very distinctive gestures, she digs around and lies down. Many of her facial expressions provide fleeting moments of humorous escape. This particular waltz music commences with a sort of preparation, like the 5-6-7-8 a dance teacher gives, before the piece truly reveals itself. Rethorst uses this preparation several times throughout the piece, partly to stunt the audience's expectations. The first is to announce the end of her short solo. The music begins for what seems will be a very cardinal exit and then putters out as she putters off stage.

The waltz begins again and the cycle continues. We're presented with poetic group images of feminine forms, for example one fitting her arms into the curve of another's neck. There's pacing and pausing, solos performed to excerptsfrom the Beatles song "Come Together," the sprinkling of imaginary dust in front of faces, tucking of wrists under chins, and strutting with both fists high in the air. And we're given more duets between Melnick and Shick, whose fingers crawl through her hair and down her shoulder as Melnick watches. Moments last from two seconds to several minutes. Those that are short seem just the beginning of something.

Though there are many moments of silence throughout the piece, it never loses its sacredness or fragility. In the culminating section, three dancers approach the three in front of them, encircling their arms with their hands and tracing down the legs and to the floor. They continue exploring foreheads and the circumference of shoulder girdles, probing joints. They flick shoulders of the absent-faced other dancers and suddenly are caught by the wrist in their act, and the roles switch. They trace a line up the right leg, over the shoulder, neck and head, down the other side, to the floor, and into themselves.

Melnick performs a solo to "Come Together" in its entirety, in which she verges on loosing complete control without her partner around. The piece concludes when Rethorst returns, beating the floor with her feet in a slow, meditative rhythm. It seems like aimless plodding, and the sound goes unnoticed until the lighting, designed by Michael Giannitti, fades it all back into the silence.

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