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Flash Review 1, 10-8: Wats Happening Now
Gibney Brings Time and Humanity Together

By Douglas Frank
Copyright 2002 Douglas Frank

NEW YORK -- On Saturday evening at 7:57 p.m. Eastern time, the New York Yankees' season ended when the Anaheim Angels won their first post-season series ever -- after nearly two decades of trying. On Saturday evening around 8:30 p.m., Gina Gibney Dance blazed open Danspace Project's season with the premiere of a powerful work, "Time Remaining," at St. Mark's Church. In a warm and passionate performance, something like one thousand years of time flashed by in about one hour. Something like sparks of fireflies at night. Something like the lives of human beings.

Around a thousand years ago in Southeast Asia, people labored for many years to build great temples that have been left to ruin. Trees now thrust through cracks in the huge stones hewn by human hands and mingle with entangled vines. According to Ms. Gibney, seeing this connection between present and ancient time inspired "Time Remaining."

What happens over time to all things material is central to the striking imagery and ethereal music of "Time Remaining." Deployed were the combined forces of Ms. Gibney's all-female dance company, with new music by Kitty Brazelton, performed LIVE (three cheers!) by an all-male vocal ensemble, cello, a few plucked strings, and an array of percussive elements. The live music was further entwined with prerecorded material to create a thematically consistent intermingling of past and present sound. The dancers interacted with a 200-piece modular "wall" comprised of gray obelisk-size and smaller pieces, making the structure appear to breathe with life and seethe with decay. Kathy Kaufmann's outstanding lighting and Naoko Nagata's costume design complimented a remarkably cohesive and thought provoking inter-arts creation.

The people who built those ancient temples, those "wats," in places like Angkor in Cambodia around a thousand years ago were Buddhists. Buddhism ultimately views existence as a state of suffering and dissatisfaction; we wander from one birth to the next searching for an elusive happiness. The roots of unwholesome Karma, of course, are greed, hatred and delusion, and their opposites are selflessness, kindness and wisdom. "Time Remaining" explores the roots of our human actions and our urgent need for human connection and kindness. It resonantly evokes through imagery and music how humanity is sustained.

As Eden Mazer entered in darkness, the sound of her breath -- timelessly human -- was joined by a soulful cello line with soft light revealing a lovely opening solo. The glowing white apple of the Macintosh PowerBook running the digital files of prerecorded sound added to the juxtaposition of the age we live in with depictions of days of futures past.

Pairing off, the dancers explored the bonds between them or the lack thereof. Angharad Davies and Mazer were particularly effective in their duets, dancing with the kind of technical skill that becomes recessive to the humanity and spirituality they communicate through their movement together and apart.

At times dancers cradled others as mothers do daughters. At times they carried others on their backs, as do daughters who eventually take on the burden of caring for their mothers. Sections of text from Ecclesiastes ("a time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing") were performed "a cappella" without instruments and were seamlessly connected with sections of extended vocal technique and accompanied chant. These sections were akin to the haunting music by Gyorgy Ligeti in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- also about time, and how little we human beings are in relation to the cosmos, and how big we can be for each other.

The wonderful lighting design by Ms. Kaufmann and set by Srdjan Jovanovic and Sabine von Fisher of the Normal Group for Architecture, combined with occasional stage smoke, created a richly textured visual environment. The costumes designed by Ms. Nagata were fashioned from sparkling chiffon and other fabrics crafted in traditionally feminine styles, each one unique.

Considering that humanity cannot sustain itself without men and women coming together, a moving moment actually occurred at curtain call. The collaborators of both genders came together to form a line of 19 human beings who had connected with each other and with the audience.

"Time Remaining" reminds us that days are precious. It asks us to remember, for a moment, that one day our gift of days will be taken from us. And that's okay. Because all of our days are bonus days. Each one a miracle. As Henry David Thoreau wrote: "Even the death of friends will inspire us as much as their lives.... Their memories will be encrusted over with sublime and pleasing thoughts, as their monuments are overgrown with moss."

"Time Remaining," was choreographed and directed by Gina Gibney in collaboration with Angharad Davies, Kristen Johansen, Jessica Loof, Mariangela Lopez, Eden Mazer, Bethany Prater, and Molly Watson. Music composition and direction was by Kitty Brazelton, performed live by David Bryan, countertenor, John Brauer, tenor, Keith Borden, baritone, Mark Lin, bass, Matthew Goeke, cello, Alex Vittum, percussion. Text was taken from Ecclesiastes with additional text by Gina Gibney and Kitty Brazelton.

"Time Remaining" repeats tonight and Thursday through Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church in New York. For more information, please visit the Danspace Project web site. Additional performances are scheduled for Nov 15 to 17 at the Cleveland Public Theater. For more information, please visit Gina Gibney Dance's web site.

Douglas Frank is the Artistic and Executive Director of The Douglas Frank Chorale. For more information, please click here.


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