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Flash Review 1, 5-5: Occupation
Greco PC, on One Level

By Nancy Dalva
Copyright 2003 Nancy Dalva

NEW YORK -- "Double Points: One," half of the Emio Greco PC double bill at Dance Theater Workshop the weekend before last, opens in darkness. On the floor of the wide DTW stage, a narrow runway is sketched in slim lines of light. At the back, a man stands in silence, barely visible. He's wearing a gray chiffon whatsis -- maybe a dress, maybe a robe. He's bald, and sinewy. (When you can see him better, he looks like a Corsican pirate in drag.) He gestures with his arms, fitfully, and in the dark, your eyes play tricks. The light zings around, you get weird retinal flashes. The man looks up. He twitches. He jerks. He does some odd contractions, like a cat hacking up a hairball. He undulates. He looks like the figure in Munch's "The Scream," or like an extra-terrestrial. You can see now, as a bank of light has slowly moved above to cloak him in increasing brightness, that he's wearing some sort of ballet slippers. In deep, broad-stanced plie, he jerks himself forward. By now his musical accompaniment, which started quietly, grows louder. It's Ravel's "Bolero," later to be augmented by noises -- airplanes? thunder? bombs? fireworks? When you've finally resigned yourself to his slow progress, the man swerves off his runway and hurtles himself to the floor, on the obscure left side of the stage. This is mildly annoying, as he's broken his own convention, or seems to have. If he could have been someplace besides that narrow strip of light, why didn't he get there sooner? Eventually, he ends up in the dark, upstage, seated, watching the audience listen to the noise. Or seeming to. He looks hostile.

Or maybe I was projecting, and I was hostile. "Bolero" has that effect on me, and further, I already had a go-to-guy in the "scary bald man semaphoring around in chiffon" category, and didn't feel the need of another. Nonetheless, I took pains to remind myself that everyone doesn't have Stephen Petronio, and that perhaps in a different context, in his own milieu, Greco is sui generis.

Just then his pseudo-double came out -- or rather, materialized in the gloom -- to perform with Greco in the second half of the program, a unison unisex duet called "Double Points: Two." Her marvelous name is Bertha Bermudez Pascual, and she's from Pamplona. From 1993 to 1996, she danced with the Frankfurt Ballet, and she's just the kind of distinctive, dishy dancer one associates with that company's director, William Forsythe. Her ballet technique is probably killer, but here she's only called upon to display faint vestiges of it: an odd version of a ballet barre -- almost- tendus, almost- ronde de jambes, and the like, in almost-darkness. (Both these dances made you feel as if you were going blind.) Across the stage, Greco soon joined her, in parallel movement, mostly, but not always.

They tiptoed, and stepped, and signalled (but signified nothing) and vamped, and gradually, gradually, came to face each other, at which point he pecked at her with his chin.There was no Ravel to clue you in to time passing in this second piece, but a soundscore, which started out with tom-toms. The costume looked identical to the one in the first dance, but in beige, for both performers. They also looked beige -- she's deep beige, he's mid-beige, and the light is beige. (Beige art! But not Bejart.) They were almost of a parallel height -- she's about two inches taller -- but physically inharmonious. There was no chemistry between them, but there was faint piano music. She wore long loopy ringlets, or dreadlocks, which I was attempting to count --I had already taken a census of the overhead lights; 34, as I made it out, four to a row, front to back -- when a random piano burst startled me.

It was then that I realized that for all its effort, this dance -- unlike that burst of sound -- had no projection. Possibly, I thought, this was because the dancers were below the audience -- every seat in DTW's theater is in essence a balcony seat, because of its steep rake -- and the piece had been made for a a level, or raised stage. But then there was an expanse of percussion in the sound score, boldly rhythmic, and I realized that the dance not only had no projection, nor any structure to speak of (ideas are not structure), but that it also lacked intrinsic rhythm, even when the dancers windmilled their arms around frenetically, as if winding themselves up. Thus, when at last the music had ended and the light had faded,and someone who had seen the piece before and knew that it was over had begun to clap, much had been done, but nothing had happened.

A statement in a Dance Theater Workshop press release and repeated in the program initially attracted me to Emio Greco PC -- the entity includes Greco, born in Italy and trained in France, and Dutch theater director Pieter C. Scholten, who together "choreographed and directed" the work I saw. Their artistic credo says, in part, that "dance is not used as a medium to convey a message in a physical form, nor is it a language for dressing theatrical space." It further claims that "movement is self-sufficient and capable of creating time and space." Unfortunately, this turns out not to be true. Dance does not create time and space. It merely occupies them.

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