Dance Insider Directory
featured photo

Flash Reviews and Arts Voyager Article / Galleries
Go Home

Ownership of The Arts Voyager & Dance Insider, as well as our sister publication Art Investment News, is available FREE to a new owner who will keep the present editor on staff part-time and help him get a carte de sejour to return to France, plus provide health insurance in France. For details please contact editor & publisher Paul Ben-Itzak.

Photograph of Leimay in "Becoming Corpus" copyright Harry Hanson and courtesy Leimay.

Copyright 2013 Philip W. Sandstrom

(In which our erstwhile New York editor and chief critic Flashes eight performances across two burroughs, two cities, and two states, including work from Jacqulyn Buglisi, Leimay, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Liz Gerring, Mark Dendy, Pick Up Performance Company/ies, Stanley Love, Donald Byrd, Maria Elena Anaya and Eclipses Flamenco, Li Chiao-Ping, Koosil-Ja, Alexandra Beller, Xavier Veilhan, and Eliane Radigue.)

As the 150 dancers of Jacqulyn Buglisi's "The Table Dance Project" surrounded the fountain on Lincoln Center Plaza on September 11, the sun shone bright and the sky was clear blue, not unlike on 9/11/2001. Performing a ritual that seemed familiar in style and shape and so appropriate in context, the dancers, swaddled in white, rhythmically spiraled around the fountain. Using forward, reverse, and counter-rotating movements, augmented with pensive poses and upright straightened spines, Buglisi evoked higher powers that transcend this world. Throughout the 30 or so minutes of the performance the crowd of hundreds surrounding the dancers, who surrounded the fountain, looked on in quiet awe. There was not a side comment or a peep from the audience as the ritual advanced in processional form to its denouement of reaching towards the heavens for an answer and expression of peace. The dancers then reverse spiraled away, like circles spinning within circles, leaving the fountain, now sanctified, to the crowd that approached it with reticence.

Photograph of Jacqulyn Buglisi's "The Table Dance Project" copyright Terri Gold and courtesy Audrey Ross Publicity.

12 September
"Becoming Corpus," by Leimay
Direction, design, and concept: Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya
Choreography: Ximena Garnica and the ensemble
Video programing and design: Shige Moriya
Score: Roland Toledo and Christopher Loar
Ensemble: Masanori Asahara, Andrew Braddock, Andrea Jones, Elizabeth McAuliffe, Denisa Musilova, Eija Ranta, Tommy Schell, and Savina Theodorou.
Presented by the Brooklyn Academy of Music at the Fisher Theater

The opening video projections of "Becoming Corpus" bathed the half-naked dancers with thin horizontal white lines that evoked the illusion of light squeezing through thin venetian blinds. It made the performers appear like they were being scanned or sliced by a laser, in a scene straight out of the Twilight Zone.

The ritual nature of the dance seemed other-worldly, with scenes of passion, pain, and loneliness, as when dancers took up torturous positions while grimacing like bound captives.

The entire production was defined by the light of four video projectors which alternately bathed the stage in light from all directions and limited it with surgical precision. This unusual but effective approach allowed the visual artist, Shige Moriya, the freedom to expand, contract, and manipulate the playing area, forcing our eyes to focus in on whatever he chose. It made me wonder if we needed conventional lighting any more.

Photograph of Leimay in "Becoming Corpus" copyright Harry Hanson and courtesy Leimay.

15 September "Scarcity"
Presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Cherry Lane Theatre
Directed by Daniel Talbott
Featuring: Didi O'Connell, Natalie Gold, Izzy Hanson-Johnston, Will Pullen, Pamela Shaw, Michael Warner, and Gordon Joseph Weiss
Designers: Raul Abrego (Set), Tristan Raines (Costume), Joel Moritz (Lighting), Janie Bullard (Sound)
Production Stage Manager: Devorah Jaffe

A depressing play about a family in which success is frowned upon, "Scarcity" examines the false pride associated with being "one of the people," where education is down-played and seen as upper-class snobbery. We see a family with two children, in a poor, yet not cramped, house, where there is little to eat but plenty to drink (booze and beer). Through the influence of a new teacher, the son is encouraged to apply to a private school and secure a scholarship. The younger daughter, the alter ego of the author, complains to her brother that if he departs she will be left alone with her loser parents. Nonetheless, she does her best to support him. The acting was so believable that at times I was concerned for the performers. The interaction of characters seemed disgustingly genuine, as when the father hits on the daughter by trying to fondle her or get her to sit on his lap or when he violently confronts the son over his attachment to the new teacher, wanting to know how she is in bed. The mother concurs, telling him the teacher is only trying to help him so she can get into his pants.

Talbot's blocking was stiff at times but the action was compelling. I imagined that all would end badly but at the end of this second play in a trilogy, there are signs that the brother will escape the vise of the poverty cycle.

Photograph of "System Ocana" copyright Sasha Arutyunova and courtesy Alliance Francaise.

19 September "Systema Occam," an evening of collaboration by visual artist Xavier Veilhan & composer Eliane Radigue
Performed at Florence Gould Hall
Presented by French Institute
Alliance Francaise

The first half of "Systema Occam" featured pendulums, sand circles, two bowls, and a slow dropping ball held by strings. It presented a ritualistic rendering of theater as two men were highlighted in silhouettes augmented by a strategically positioned uplight; the image presented of these men approached the near deification of the characters. It was almost as if pre-Christian gods had descended from the heavens to reveal secrets that were beyond our grasp.

Unfortunately, just as the drama began to unfold and started to reveal some essence of a story, it ended and the actors exited without explanation, leaving a dim stage cluttered with their props.

In this darkness, I was not alone in my confused state. After a brief drizzle of applause the audience waited, patiently, in the dark, for the second half of the shared evening to begin. Slowly, on the dimly lit stage, the air was filled with the mesmerizing drone of a harp, played with a bow, by Rhodri Davis. The sound of his ceaseless bowing seemed to drill into my sinuses and resonate in my brain. The experience was transcendental, the smallest change in pitch creating aural twists that revealed how sound can alter the perception of location and direction. Near the end of this mesmerizing performance, an unexpected addition of gentle plucks which augmented the bowing drones brought tears to my eyes as the beauty of the tones and over-tones washed over me.

21 September
Choreographed by Liz Gerring
Music composed by Michael J. Schumacher
Sets and lighting designed by Robert Wierzel
Costumes designed by Marion Talan
Presented by Peak Performances at Montclair University, Montclair, New Jersey

In the cold calculating movement performed in the sterile environment of lighting and set designed by Robert Wiertzel, Liz Gerring paired men with women, women with women, and men with men, all the while carefully avoiding any attempt to connect the characters on any level except that they occupied the same stage at the same time. The clean abstraction of this approach was enchantingly Cunningham-like but unlike Cunningham, who used chance opportunities to allow his dancers to forge some emotional bonds, Gerring avoided, or perhaps banned, any expression by the performers that would in anyway let us know they were human.

The sterility of this dance was compounded by the jarring overly-loud recorded score, that drew attention to itself more often then it served the choreography. The beauty of the dancers and their movements was the shining spot in this otherwise uninviting, but perfectly executed dance. Unlike Gerring's earlier works, this one dance was so removed from mystery that it left us with nothing to ponder.

Photograph Kim Martin-Cotton and Birgit Huppauch in the Pick Up Performance Company/ies production of "Not What Happened" copyright Ian Douglas.

25 September
"Not What Happened"
Pick Up Performance Company/ies
Conceived and written by Ain Gordon
Directed by Ken Rus Schmoll
Photography by Forrest Holzapfel
Featuring Birgit Huppauch and Kim Martin-Cotten
Set and costume design by Arnulfo Maldonado
Lighting design by Nick Ryckert
BAM Fisher (Fishman Space), Brooklyn

In an intriguingly strange story set on a New England farm in the early 1800s, as (mostly) recounted by a latter day narrator, "Not What Happened" takes us on a journey that examines the realm of possibilities. The Guide, played by Kim Martin-Cotten, is a historical re-enactor re-creating in the present the role of Silence, the first inhabitant of the farm, also portrayed, via flashbacks to the original time, by Birgit Huppauch. Through Martin-Cotten's detailed telling of the story, including historical remnants of the farm's history, and Huppauch's recitations of redacted verse, we slowly get an idea of what maybe happened.

Huppauch's stellar performance as the strident Silence imbues the play with existential angst, bringing to life the often sad and painful nature of human existence in the subsistence farm world then prevalent and still around in pockets today. Notwithstanding Huppauch's haunting performance, punctuated by stuttering, the confusing script, replete with flashbacks and incomplete sentences, does indeed leave the viewer wondering: What exactly did happen? What happened to the families that owned and worked this farm, how did they live, how did they die, and what were the conditions of their survival? In juxtaposing Huppauch's portrayal of the stoic Silence with Martin-Cotten's interpretation of the bubble tour guide / re-enactor of Silence, shadowing the original like a doppelganger, Gordon gives us a sense of what might have happened and more importantly what we don't know, but still yearn to know. Gordon has given us a strong exploration of how our understanding of history evolves as time passes.

Photograph of Eclipses Flamenco courtesy Dixon Place.

27 September
"Encounter of Two Worlds," featuring Eclipses Flamenco
Choreography by Maria Elena Anaya
Directed by Maria Elena Anaya and Nora Jacobs
Performed by Natalia Loza, Cecilia Rivera, Omar Castillo Moreno, and Omar Yanez
Music by Alfonso Cid, Lina Ravines, Daniel Pimentel, and Sean Kupisz
Poetry by Susan Sherman
Presented by Dixon Place

Eclipses Flamenco's humorous, penitent, and pointed presentation of Mexican flamenco, which merges Pre-Colombian and Spanish cultures, came complete with Mayan gods and goddess. The eclectic collection of music and dance with a flamenco flavor was highlighted by the incredible, floor-devouring solo performance of Maria Elena Anaya, exuding angst and sexuality. No one on stage compared with her ferocity; she's the show and should not be missed the next time she comes around.

29 September
"Surprise Every Time"
A two-day festival of Live Choreography
Concept & programming by Sally Silvers
Presented at Roulette, Brooklyn, NY

I saw the Sunday night performance of "Surprise Every Time," featuring the choreographic pairs of Koosil-Ja and Alexandra Beller, Donald Byrd and Li Chiao-Ping, and Mark Dendy and Stanley Love. The premise is that the paired choreographers, working from scratch, make a five-minute dance in 20 minutes and then perform it, all with the audience watching. In its practical execution, though, some of the choreographers seemed to be inventing and improvising in the present, and others working from pre-planned steps. The process was painful and exhilarating at the same time. Only Donald Byrd and Li Chiao-Ping actually made a dance together in real time, each feeding off the creation of the other. In this case Li had the dancers create steps based on imagery, which Byrd then adjusted by transferring the movement to limbs other than those for which Li had just made the movement. This resulted in performances the invention of whose unique movement patterns would have been hard to believe if you hadn't seen the process. Beller and Koosil-Ja made a work that did not meld and Dendy and Love made completely different pieces; Love's dance brought down the house with its upbeat energy.

Flash Reviews & Arts Voyager Article / Galleries
Go Home