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Flash Review, 11-4: Shifting focus
Vaporous Vo-Dinh

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2009 Maura Nguyen Donohue

NEW YORK -- French choreographer Emmanuelle Vo-Dinh has been on my to-see list for several years.  All I knew was that former Dance Theater Workshop director David White had seen her work in France and recommended it to me -- she is part Vietnamese, I am part Vietnamese, and we both circulate in similar dance circles.  I knew nothing else, but it was enough to make the demand to see Vo-Dinh's work at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church last weekend highly compelling.  That Zeena Parkins was providing the musical accompaniment made it imperative. In the end, it wasn't any racial, national, or historical tie that bound me to the work I saw, but my appreciation for Vo-Dinh's investigation of physical practice and the boundaries of the body.  I could house her languid 40-minute solo "Ici/Per.For" in some kind of cultural rumination about an Asian aesthetic of slow, sustained, meditative art works.  But that would be a scholarly reach and, anyway, is more of an East Asian qualifying commentary than a Vietnamese one.

Vo-Dinh begins, clad entirely in white, on a highly reflective black dance floor that doubles her image, creating an accompanying dancer beneath her. Parkins starts playing a collection of wine glasses to create a drone.  Vo-Dinh bends her body into a series postures that she holds for relatively equal durations.  As Parkins shifts to electric harp, the dancer  begins a floor-bound sequence that shifts between postures with increasing frequency and rolls, most noticeably, through her shoulder joints.  Vo-Dinh's movement is cascading and liquid, rippling across the reflective pool in a seamless flow.  Each joint bends softly to allow for folding and unfolding, twists and swirls. The dance continues with an easy, automatic energy -- gaining speed but still seeming effortless. The movement pathways are luscious but the dance remains an investigation, at times lulling and then, eventually, challenging to sit through.  My focus shifts more readily to Parkins, who becomes more interesting to watch with dynamic physical shifts at the harp and suspended feet above effect pedals. Her crashing soundscapes take over and I begin to think of Vo-Dinh as accompaniment to Parkins. I change my perspective and settle into enjoying a live music concert with movement accompaniment.  When designer Francoise Michel lights reflecting water pools in the upper balcony, St. Mark's Church begins to vibrate with glowing light.  It tempers my growing impatience and I find myself grateful to be in this exceptional space.


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