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More Flash Reviews
Review, 1-25: Words get in the Way
Near-zero Visibility for Metamorphomess
By Philip W. Sandstrom
Copyright 2006 Philip W. Sandstrom
NEW YORK -- "...It's
only a rehearsal," a dance choreographed by Ina Christel Johannessen
and performed by the Zero Visibility Corp. at P.S. 122 last month,
appeared to represent the timeless struggle between the sexes set
upon a shiny silver metal floor; it was billed as "a story of love
and revenge inspired by Ovid's 'Metamorphoses.'" Perhaps, if you
could follow it.
The performance opened
with a long solo by Dmitri Jourde that had the appearance of Twyla
Tharp-meets-breaking-and-popping. This man can move! As Line Tormoen
looked on, Jourde covered the floor with incredibly smooth gliding
motions, which appeared to emanate from his hips, enhanced by elegant
and organic arm popping.
After waiting her turn
in what seemed to be like a contest, Tormoen, a lean dancer with
precise control and capable of remarkably loose hip swings, briefly
soloed, which lead into a unison duet. As the music, by Murcof,
increased in intensity while the beat became pronounced, this duet
digressed into aggressive partnering until the pair hit the floor
together and quickly separated, like wrestlers who break at the
The music shifted into
a driving combination of percussive beats and violin attacks, as
the dancers began sparring in a series of physical attacks and retreats
evoking a boxing match. Was this an expression of love and passion
or of struggle and confrontation? The distinction appeared to be
intentionally obscured. And why did both performers gnaw on their
digits? The struggle ceased and a major shift occurred, as if we
had reached a pause in the action or a break in the story-line.
Tormoen stood and grinned at the audience almost glaring though
her stark pale blue eyes while Jourde played the fool, bowing profusely
and grotesquely to the audience as if mockingly currying favor from
an ogre. This fake comedy seemed planned to induce the uncomfortable
laughter that it produced in the audience and between the performers.
These incongruent actions were followed by an uncomfortably long
pause -- or perhaps it was a reflective moment?
Finally, the music began
anew, and the duo resumed fighting. Boxing gave way to wrestling
as Jourde applied a full Nelson to Tormoen before trying to take
her by force, attempts she rejected. But then the couple locked
in a mouth-to-mouth kiss that carried them around the stage like
an instruction session in vertical mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
At long last they briefly came up for air, allowing Tormoen to recite
some text from Ovid. The endless kiss resumed where it left off
and they continued around the perimeter of the stage.
After the lip-lock subsided,
Tormoen soloed like Ophelia in the mad scene; she appeared to be
fending off an imaginary enemy or to be possessed by an evil spirit
accompanied by mysterious howling sounds, deep bass tones, and plucked
strings (all produced by the composer, Murcof) while Jourde gazed
upon her from afar. Abruptly, the music stopped, leaving Tormoen
frozen, looking like a terror-stricken statue. Was this meant to
be Artemis noticing Actaeon spying upon her?
frenzy was followed by a Pilobolus-like duet in which she hung on
Jourde in a variety of gymnastic and near-impossible positions in
some impressive partnering. Had the characters finally connected?
Had they "hooked up"?
What had transpired,
I understood in retrospect, was the tale of Artemis and Actaeon,
as viewed by Ovid, in dance form. Although not delineated in the
program, this seemed to indicate the end of the first section of
the performance in that what followed was markedly different in
Let me pause at this
point to explain that the silver stage floor I noted above was not
merely decorative, but an integral part of designer Jens Sethzman's
lighting scheme. The reflective quality of this particular floor
allowed Sethzman to use the direction of the light to great effect.
Although most of the performance was lit only from the stage left
side by a long row of lights hung from the ceiling off-left, the
light that bounced from and off of the floor filled in the shadows
created by such a radical one-sided approach. The effect produced
a strong directional feeling, yet this bounced light lent a soft
quality to the appearance of the stage and the performers. Occasionally,
throughout the dance, Sethzman employed the same effect from the
stage right side with many fewer lights; the effect was similar
yet more intimate and contained. It was quite an exceptional job.
Back to the action:
At the end of the Pilobolus-like duet, there was a pause, while
Tormoen opened the upstage curtain, revealing a stuffed stag in
front of a forest painted on a backdrop. She then recited aspects
of Ovid's tale in English, after which Jourde interpreted the tale
in French. He embellished his version with explicit and Vaudevillian
gestures, pantomime, and kung-fu-like movement that was funny but
The finale was a dance
coda of sorts, certainly an add-on and not a recapitulation. In
this context and in this sequence of events the coda did not make
sense. Nonetheless it was an impressive display of Jourde's hip-hop
talents but this time, unlike in the beginning, he was followed
by a remarkable solo by Tormoen distinguished by a superb rendition
of Trisha Brown--type noodling. It was indeed an ending out of nowhere
for a dance with a coda out of nowhere.
Tormoen and Jourde are
dynamic performers, with exceptional talent, but on the whole the
evening was a non-sequitur. It's not that linear is the be all and
end all, it's just that if the creator/choreographer begins in a
linear fashion and leads on that the idea is linear then the plot
has an obligation to be clear. Tormoen's recital of her broken-English
version of Ovid's tale came out of nowhere and harmed as much as
it helped to clarify the story, adding little closure for the Anglophones.
To compound the confusion, Jourde's French farce was so overdone
that it bordered on a Simpsons version delivered in Gallic.
Next time I'd say skip
the entire text section. Johannessen's choreographed version of
the Ovid tale, upon post-show reflection, told a more coherent and
endearing story than anything the overdone jabbering could hope
to provide. Perhaps the Zero Visibility Corp. could simply attach
the "coda" to the end of the Pilobolus-like duet and be done with
it. By eliminating the text and mime the performance would have
provided a more cohesive experience and one iin which the audience
could deftly compare Ovid's tale with the choreography after the
show, with a beer or wine in hand at the nearest neighborhood tavern.