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|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
|Photograph of Jacqulyn Buglisi's "The Table Dance Project" copyright Terri Gold and courtesy Audrey Ross Publicity.
"Becoming Corpus," by Leimay
Direction, design, and concept: Ximena Garnica and
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
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
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.
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
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.
"Systema Occam," an evening of collaboration by visual
artist Xavier Veilhan & composer Eliane Radigue
Performed at Florence Gould Hall
Presented by French Institute
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.
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.
Kim Martin-Cotton and Birgit Huppauch in the Pick Up Performance Company/ies production of "Not What Happened" copyright Ian Douglas.
"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.
of Eclipses Flamenco courtesy 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.
"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
"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