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Review 3, 10-21: Nelson's Array
Spontaneity Sighted; Editing Needed
By Vanessa Manko
Copyright 2002 Vanessa Manko
NEW YORK -- Two dances
comprised Jeremy Nelson's first evening-length program, seen Saturday
at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church: the premiere of "SightUnseen"
and "Wythoff's Array." Each explores, metaphorically, the interconnectedness
and chance encounters of daily life. In both works there is a sense
of things and moments being fleeting. Also present is a sense of
traveling and passing, comings and goings. But rather than seeming
staged or too mechanical, the works maintain a sense of spontaneity
and randomness; a movement phrase originates in a single dancer,
and is completed by two others, like a sentence. Nelson's work has
the fluidity and rhythm of an intense and deeply satisfying conversation
-- one in which ideas are expressed at random and thoughts turn
down unexpected paths.
This spontaneity is
best exemplified in the premiere of "SightUnseen." A malleable work,
"SightUnseen" flows freely from one section into the next. The brightly
colored pin-stripped capri pants by Luis Lara add a dash of whimsy
to the dance. Beyond Nelson's choreography, what drives this piece
is the excellent sound by composer Douglas Henderson. An amalgam
of cars whizzing by on a highway, the cumbersome clanking of a delivery
truck, and the idle banter and busyness of a noonday street provide
a compelling "soundscape" for Nelson's equally idiosyncratic choreography.
The stage is continually busy with movement interspersed with sudden,
intermittent pauses in which a dancer stops on a dime. Small, inconsequential
movements morph into powerful jumps. For instance, a repeated shoulder
isolation begins a chain reaction through the rest of the body which
eventually results into a dash across the floor or a barrel turn
in mid air.
"SightUnseen" is also
comprised of several partnering sequences, each requiring a great
deal of trust as two people lean away from each other, attached
only by their hands, or as one dancer balances stiff as a plank
against another's shoulder. These moments are fresh and there always
seems to be an element of surprise as the partnering unfolds. The
group sections in "SightUnseen" are just as appealing to watch.
Several times throughout the work, a handful of dancers, each involved
in his or her own particular movement phrase, cluster in one corner
of the stage. Suddenly, two break out moving in synch across the
floor and then leap into a fantastic jump, spinning mid-air. Another
pair juts out in a different direction. The result is a layering
of movements, each distinct, but also complimentary.
"Wythoff's Array" stems
from the same theme as "SightUnseen" -- that of random interactions.
A circle of light and one lone woman standing outside its circumference
opens the work. Slowly placed, strong movements set the tone. The
dancing is clean and crisp here, each extension and role of the
hip articulated. The stage begins to fill with others who perform
the same deliberate focused movement, whether it be walking or a
leg extension. Soon the piece gives way to overlapping sequences
similar to those in "SightUnseen"; a trio develops into a quartet
and then a quintet and so on.
Created for 18 dancers,
the piece has been scaled back to fit a smaller group of 12. Yet,
I wonder if Nelson's choreography might be better displayed through
an even smaller amount of dancers. This is particularly true of
the partnering sequences in "Wythoff's Array." A tour de force of
lifting, spinning, pushing and pulling seem the hallmark of Nelson's
partnering work. It is complex and intricate. Thus, one slip of
the hand and a couple loses the pace. At one point, seven or eight
couples are on stage performing the same partnering sequence. Unfortunately,
the result is a mishmash of bodies. The stage is cluttered and the
dancers are terribly out of synch. Perhaps the choreography could
come through more clearly with less bodies on stage. In short, some
deft editing could be used here. On the contrary, a starkly beautiful,
almost surreal, moment in this piece occurred when the lights dimmed
to reveal dancers in silhouette. Each glided or scurried gracefully
across the floor. It was a distinct, clear moment -- one that could
have lasted a bit longer.
Nelson himself is a
compact and dynamically intense performer who wisely uses a diverse
-- in both body type and movement style -- group of dancers for
his works. Dancers included Adrian Clark, Samantha Chan, Karen Engleman,
Hristoula Harakas, Luis Lara, Hamilton Monteiro, Rebecca Pearl,
Gretchen Pallo, Emily Proctor, Anna Schmidt, Rebecca Serrell, Sia
Sourelou, Francis A. Stansky, and Osmany Telez.
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