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Flash Review 2, 11-25: "Dressed For Floating"
Dorvillier and Corps at Play

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung

NEW YORK -- Just as each society has its own self-evident rules governing civilized behavior which other societies may find incomprehensible, DD Dorvillier/human future dance corps's new work, "Dressed for Floating," sets up a hermetic microcosm in which certain curious rules apply. So if you crave an orderly world in which everything can be neatly categorized, such theatrical experimentations may leave you frustrated. For others, Dorvillier (who choreographed, directed and wrote the show) has created an intriguing intellectual and kinetic playground. As seen Friday at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, the audience, seated in a single row along the four mylar-striped edges of the "stage," inasmuch as became part of the performance.

The costumes (by Katrin Schnabl) played an integral part in upending semaphores -- sleeves became hats or straps to tie about the torso, a quilt became a strapless dress. At the start, the dancers (Ermira Goro, Sam Kim, Heather Kravas, and Judith Sanchez Ruiz, all collaborators in the creative process) huddled beneath a patchwork of wool flannel. Like some sort of alien life form which sucks energy from its environs and ages in a rapid fast-forward, the women emerged from the quilt and, tucked in balls, vibrated rhythmically until they were charged up enough to stand. Each sported an overskirt of patched wool and a jacket, head plugged into a sleeve -- nonsense, but with clear intent -- thus undermining any subsequent interpretation of function or meaning. They tottered like gyroscopes across the stage, lifting their jacket hoods just enough to peek out, at once aware and unaware.

Two mikes sat about a foot above the floor. Sanchez Ruiz contorted herself to speak into one, while Kim convulsed in front of the other, sending sonic information through the soundscape; feedback squealed on occasion. When the light (designed by Carol Mullins) formed a clear square, the women doffed all but yellow dresses, and performed relaxed but formal movements in rigid geometric patterns to rhythmic music. The score, by David Kean, varied richly, from industrial hissings and bonks to harpsichord, guitar, and piano sections.

Another section featured two of the dancers tiptoeing quickly around the edge of the stage, jabbering to one another comically. When the other pair did the same, but around the perimeter of the church behind the audience's backs, it seemed that they were moving to accompany the cadences of the nonsensical sentences they were forming -- movement to the rhythm of speech, and yet devoid of content. Two dancers lay on their backs, their hands linked like ice skaters, their legs floating up into the air. This initiated a segment of leg movements, in which the women would sit, flop their legs into a butterfly, flap one leg onto the other, and circle one leg around in an arch, for example. They seemed to be chatting and relating to each other, not with words, but with a silent dialogue of leg moves.

After an amusing segment in which they led one another around by their ponytails, the dancers changed into further deconstructed costumes -- jackets worn with one shoulder bare, or simply tied about the body -- which by this point almost seemed to make a certain amount of sense. Kravas, clutching a paper cup, hair teased out, could have easily been either a homeless person or a fashion victim at Starbucks. In fact, when the dancers began to cross the stage in a neat diagonal with a step-pivot-touch to a sweet guitar melody, the stage became a runway.

While all of the dancers conveyed a sharp focus and purpose, aided by Peter Jacobs's dramaturgy, Kravas radiated an intensity that bordered on urgent desperation. She led a section in which the women looked like children imitating ballet -- playful, relaxed, and yet fully dedicated to the task at hand. The finale -- a slow motion, weightless space walk with mouths frozen agape -- evoked the cold isolation of Kubrick's film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," a fitting ending to a program which began with the dancers springing to life from an inanimate state.

"Dressed for Floating" is performed again Tuesday night at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church. For more information, please visit the Danspace Project web site.

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