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Review 2, 7-1: Oceans of Motion
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr
NEW YORK -- Wil Swanson's
kinesthetic sensibility still shows signs of his Trisha Brown heritage;
he danced with her troupe for ten years. But his concert "Wild Human
Poetry" at Danspace Project at St. Mark's (June 26-29) demonstrated
that his choreographic voice is his own. A dedicated abstractionist,
he lets the movement speak for itself, arranged formally with skillful
control of its dynamic arc.
Swanson's new "cubic
legroom" is set to music by Bang on a Can founders Julia Wolfe and
Michael Gordon, Kodo drumming, and John Adams, engineered by Devin
Carey. It begins with an upright phrase of fluid gestures sprinkled
with high extensions, done in strict unison by a revolving trio:
as one dancer exits to one side another replaces her or him from
the other. These first four dancers wear salmon pants and lilac
tops. The percussive music adds emphasis to the continuous stream
of relaxed, active motion. Twitches, head bobbles, and semi-collapses
that impel bodies in unexpected directions are Swanson's vernacular.
Unison becomes mirroring
with a new group of four, whose camisole tops (on men and women)
are turquoise or black over the same pinkish pants. The music changes
to strings, equally rhythmic, but less strident. The quality of
the movement remains the same, but different musical texture changes
In a serene adagio section
for a line of four women along one side and a single woman in the
opposite corner, the agitated music contrasts their deliberative
slow motion. They lean, sit, and lie prone, always in unison, but
gradually changing their facings. It feels Cubist, seeing multiple
facets of the same phrase.
A pitch forward on one
foot that collapses into a side fall is the most striking motif
of the group section for eight that follows. Here, for the first
time dancers make physical contact. They support, then drop one
another or pull each other from behind, spilling to the ground in
reclining couples. Human vulnerability finally projects although
the dancers' faces still give nothing away.
As dancers cascade in
close canon from the side of the stage -- a favorite device of Brown's
-- the music suggests springtime, moving water. And a quick duet
coda closes the half-hour long dance. The dancers' neutral faces
don't intrude on the movement. Swanson's own angular face, however,
framed by an abundant blond mop in a bowl haircut, intrinsically
implies drama. Flickers of emotional intention make Swanson the
odd man out in his own company. Perhaps his extra presence is simply
the result of Swanson's lengthier experience as a dancer. But were
the other dancers similarly coached, the work might gain additional
Joshua Epstein's lighting
introduced welcome surprises with abrupt changes from bright washes
to stark downward spots to intense side light, molding bodies in
space. Swanson is his own costume designer, probably for reasons
of thrift, but his choices for "cubic legroom" seemed a bit retro.
Guest performers Elizabeth Hazelwood and Mariah Maloney joined company
members Felicia Ballos, Jonathan Bastiani, Candice Schnurr, Uta
Takemura, Flora Wiegmann, and Ian Van Voorst.
Last year's "Naked Singularities"
completed the program. With vigorous music by 1-900-GET KAHN and
Arnold Dreyblatt, vigorous movement, and shiny old gold and copper
costumes upping the entertainment ante, "Singularities" had greater
impact, though structurally, "legroom" nourished our appetite for
abstraction with greater thoughtfulness.
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