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Flash Review 1, 6-11: Emotions in Motion
O'Brien Opens up
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2003 Chris Dohse
NEW YORK -- Watching
Mollie O'Brien's recent program at Joyce Soho makes me think that
when Doris Humphrey codified the craft of choreography (in 1959's
"The Art of Making Dances," she lists design, dynamics, rhythm,
motivation and gesture, words, music, sets and props, and form)
she ignored the important fact that a dancer is more than a sculptural
form in space, but a person, with a person's attendant frailty and
possibility of emotional context, affect, and behavior. In her work,
O'Brien (like several others in recent concerts: RoseAnne Spradlin,
Fiona Marcotty, Aviva Geismar) unfetters an ephemeral emotional
(NOT emotive, which might be more in line with Humphrey's "motivation")
presence in a truer way than many of her contemporaries, allowing
nuance of the emotional moment to be a choreographic element.
a solo for O'Brien, showcases her long limbs, articulate torso,
and mysterious, separately intentioned fingers, in a beautiful layered
dress by Naoka Nagata. O'Brien allows each of her thoughts the time
it needs to be fully stated, swimming through space and personal
history, but in no stroke that you can recognize exactly. For example,
a sideways-careening crustacean port de bras above complex footwork,
tango-like. Severn Clay creates an underwater effect by cleverly
lighting two vents high up on one wall until they shine. O'Brien
establishes an uncanny balance between human presence and dancerly,
three episodes from an evolving (or perhaps unraveling) relationship,
the movement in perfectly balanced interaction with sound (Shawn
Onsgard plays live from the side of the space) and lights (Clay
again) to create an entire world. Sci-fi and mod at the same time,
Clay's projected light transforms Joyce Soho's monolithic back wall
into a sectioned trompe l'oeil. A sequence of overlaid colored squares
permutes the color wheel for a lighting effect I've not seen anything
quite like before.
In part one ("Faster
Than Dark"), the two equally compelling performers (Jennifer Dignan
and Gina Jacobs) dance with a unique sense of rhythm in phrasework
and occasional playful partnering while Onsgard's soundscore pops
and buzzes. But more noticeably, they parade a sequence of inexplicable
affect. I think they mouthed repeatedly, "Fuck you!" at one point.
They're not in unison but they're in synch, two bees caught in the
wrong hive. Perhaps their hair is pulled back too tight? These two
are completely unlike O'Brien in body (compact, pelvic floor squarely
connected to the earth) but remarkably capture her same uncanny
aforementioned balance. Where O'Brien seems a shy, languorous presence,
these two are not at all afraid to be looked at; they're wired,
alert. One seems to be angry most of the time, stalwart, a pigtailed
droid, while the other worries a lot.
Part two ("Crushed Raspberries")
spins out phrases that start with recognizable dancerly values but
devolve and dissipate into stutters and tics, just as Onsgard's
tuneful plunking stumbles around itself. Dignan and Jacobs examine
each other's intimate nooks and crannies after attacking each other
with smooches, then try to climb into each other.
Part three ("Summoning
the Delicate") looks at first like it needs pruning during an episode
of floor roly-poly. Then the two lovers/playmates/enemies stand
and offer a perfect ending. There's no resolution to their struggle,
more like a sense of "to be continued" where two fighters pause
at a point of equilibrium, exhausted for the moment and leaning
on each other to keep themselves from falling.
Dancer and choreographer Chris Dohse is The Dance Insider's senior
critic. To read more Dance Insider Flash Reviews by Chris Dohse,
click on the search engine button on our Home page, then enter "Chris
Dohse" in the search engine window.
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