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Flash Review 2, 2-26: Valentine's Prey
Love and Other Nervous Breakdowns from Sam Kim

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2002 Chris Dohse

NEW YORK -- Sam Kim's "Valentine"(seen Sunday night at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church) captures the frustration of unrealized, disconnected romance. Her story of a fragmented non-relationship unfolds in a suite of three dances -- two duets and a solo -- against a bleak, antiseptic environment of surfaces: cellophane, neon, Plexiglas and plastic, barren, garish and unproductive.

1999's "Up Against the Wall" begins in a lurid fog and the sound of Stereolab's thrumming guitars. Kim and Tasha Taylor crouch or kneel against a fluorescent pink, waist-high Plexiglas wall, where they envelop each other in a series of static caresses that might be a lesbian Kama Sutra and is the only display of tenderness in the evening. There is a quality of bath-taking ritual to their exchange of intimacies. They stand to reveal torsos corseted in strands of red electrical tape, as if they are damaged goods that have been fractured and haphazardly repaired. Then, looking like futuristic bellhops in skirtless dirndls and chaste panties, the two figures abandon the underutilized reflective surface of the pink wall to perambulate into the space. There they remain isolated within sound, as during a drugged-out nightclub binge. As the lights fade, Kim flails while Taylor looks in her general direction, impassive, spread-legged.

Both dancers return in 2000's "After the Ice Age" to engage in what might be a crustacean or insect mating ritual. Rigid, neon-lit poles have replaced the Plexiglas. There is something Cunninghamesque in the angularity and meaningless, random attack of gesturing legs during a passage built around pirouettes, passe leg positions and developpes. Until the end of this section, the two don't connect at all. Stalking on tiptoe or jouncing backward, Taylor is voluptuous, Kim martial. Their final brutal consummation of sorts is a crouched, ass-backward huddle. A short coda's burst of energy shows Kim's individual, sly sense of phrasing. Has the lover succumbed to her predatory advance?

In the premiere of a solo, "A Farewell to Who You Are," Kim lets herself curve. Again her dancing has a ritual-like presence, this time in the mudras of her hands. With her hair down, she has the shakes. She flirts with eye contact with the audience, then turns her back. She lies flat, like a cat pressing itself into the rug, as the Rolling Stones have a "19th Nervous Breakdown." Her liquid hips are little generators of frustrated lust. It's unclear if this solo passage is a celebration of her successful dominance of Taylor in the earlier duets or a longing for her partner's presence. In the glaring, emotionally void interior of this"Valentine,"a loved one can also be prey.



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