featured photo
Danspace
The Kitchen
 
Brought to you by
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Flash Review, 7-23: True Believer
Agis goes with the Flow

By Josephine Leask
Copyright 2004 Josephine Leask

New! Sponsor a Flash!

LONDON -- "Explicit Faith," presented by Gaby Agis and Company July 16 in the splendidly refurbished St Luke's church which now houses the prestigious London Symphony Orchestra, was a refreshingly different dance event. Gaby Agis is a choreographer who has benefited from an eclectic career of collaborations with leading artists of other disciplines, such as writers, sculptors, architects and film makers. Her work, therefore, does not sit neatly within the dance field but overflows delightfully into other artistic streams and reaches more diverse audiences. Her movement, developed from intensive study with Joan Skinner, a pioneer of the highly sensory Skinner/Release technique, has resulted in a dance style which is subtle, aware but casual and wildly spontaneous.

What Agis and her company of dancers share in "Explicit Faith" is an unrestrained, carefree yet also deeply responsive dynamic. They take us on a journey of massive emotions, through challenges, relationships, celebrations, loss and coming together which peaks in some truly ecstatic moments. This unbridled ecstasy -- missing in so much of today's intense and careful contemporary dance -- recalls the liberated quality within the work of early pioneers of modern dance, such as Isadora Duncan. Agis is unrestrained by the usual rules of contemporary dance and breaks convention after convention. She uses a soundtrack of her favorite, highly emotive music, which includes Dido, Joy Division, PJ Harvey, Kate Bush and the Beatles, and one feels that the dancers with their frequent costume changes simply wear their favorite items of clothing. The work lasts nearly two hours without a break and about half way through Agis 'stops' the show to make a public apology for breaking her sister's toe when she was a child. She also gives us personal information about her brothers and sisters, as if we the viewers were her close confidantes. At this point in the piece her regular company is joined by six guest performers, who step out from the audience and dance a couple of numbers then leave, as if she had invited them as friends to come and appear in her show. The movement itself throughout "Explicit Faith" is derived from pedestrian action, soft, free flowing, informal and apparently unstructured. Often the dancers just boogie like they would at a party but nothing is forced or artificial. In other words, they really let it all hang out.

What is wonderful about "Explicit Faith" is that you just don't know what's going to happen next. While there is a fair amount of dross -- workshop material that is really not that interesting to see in a performance -- the highlights are thought-provoking and evoke a multitude of memories and images. Throughout the work every dancer performs a solo that is about them and their experience and so we really get to know the performers as individuals. At one point, they perform a series of pedestrian movements in a long line and they all look so uniquely different that it reminds me of the advertising campaigns used by Calvin Klein for his uni-sex perfume. Another high point comes when one of the dancers who is visibly pregnant changes into a Hawaiian skirt and Dr. Martens boots and performs an unashamedly bold celebratory dance while the other dancers smear her ritualistically with paint. She then stands up very close to the audience and stares for some ten minutes in a very intimate and communicative way, as if she is having a conversation with each one of us. Finally, a set of beautifully filmed close-up images of each of the dancers' faces being drenched in water creates a lingering impression.

While there are moments that make you wince in this work, there's a welcome naivety which challenges your sophisticated perceptions about dance, and throws you off guard. It is great to see a dance performance that is not concerned with sticking to dance codes, or trying to convey a certain image, but is more interested in conveying moods and personalities and wholeheartedly embracing its audience.

Agis herself is a striking woman, surrounded by an aura of calm and strength which is compelling for a viewer. I begin to think that she is like a neo-primitive goddess, or a postmodern Isadora Duncan, a woman who dances her way over vast artistic territories, embracing the arts and popular culture, as well as life experience.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home