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Flash Review, 1-22: Emotional
Costa Gets at CORE Emotions at the Bridge
By Kate Garroway
Copyright 2000 Kate Garroway
Ah, the hazards of studio
performance: skipping CDs, changing costumes in non-existent wing
space, finding yourself a bit too close to the audience. Throughout
these trials, Skip Costa and the seven other dancers of his COREmovement
Project, seen Friday at the Bridge, remain intent on performing
with tangible presence. Costa's choreography aims to embody the
emotions of fear, loss, violence, and surrender. Sometimes this
aim leads to painfully literal interpretations, or frustratingly
elusive ones, but there are sparks of physicality that evoke pure
emotion in both the choreography and its execution, making segments
of this studio performance captivating.
Entering the Bridge's
unusually uptown location at 2726 Broadway (and 104th), I was struck
by how informally "downtown" the space felt. A dancer in warm-ups
strolled through the lobby and the rest of the company could be
glimpsed through partially closed blinds in a small studio close
to the entrance. The performance space was an oddly long and shallow
studio with black cloth mirror and window curtains, minimal lighting
options, and a boombox. Yet, the stage was covered with three rows
of white candles which made me tread carefully to my seat, respecting
the nicely delineated stage. The program I saw, "The Movement Within,"
repeats January 23 and 30 at 3 PM, and January 29 at 8:30.
My initial reaction(s)
to Costa's opening solo, "Transmission VI: 'Leaving Hurts me too'"
made me fear I was displaying signs of multiple personality disorder.
Costa lay in a hollow of space between the burning candles and as
his body began contracting, expanding, and turning inside then out,
I thought "Oh no, he's going to convulse the whole time to show
the pain of loss--I hate being hit over the head with this stuff."
Then I became distracted by his tenderly arching and stretching
hands and feet. The sensitivity and clarity of movement in every
joint of Costa's extremities is breathtaking. As he rose into crouching
panther-like movements, I really started to enjoy it; the juxtaposition
of discomfort and relief as his limbs stretched taut before gliding
to a new position was liberating. Then it was over; a brief solo
ending with Costa's arm still distortedly reaching, still groping
for what was lost.
Suddenly Costa was stagehand
as well as director and dancer: He and another dancer scampered
to blow out candles and install yellow gels before six of his female
dancers appeared in "Fear." It was a strong, young group. Each of
them displayed the same grounded, sensitive feet as Costa, and articulate
technique. The best moments featured ensemble work of virtuosic
dimensions spanning rapid hurtling leaps, floorwork that both glided
and crashed, and sustained legs floating to and from the ground
with the patience of the most serious martial artist. Also notable
were partnering segments in which one dancer stiffened in fear as
the other pummeled into her body, sliding to the floor just to hurl
her weight again. The worst sections were, unfortunately, at the
beginning and the end, consisting of predictable gestures of fear.
The dancers were clad
in tight cropped shirts and Capri-length cargo pants with a sheen.
This stylish garb was consistent with the rest of the evening's
costumes. "Fear" and the last dance on the program were both costumed
by dancer Amiti Perry, exuding a decidedly contemporary aesthetic.
As noted on the front
of the program, the ideas and music were also "contemporary." I
have not yet mentioned the music because it was complimentary, but
not noteworthy, in both of the previously mentioned pieces. The
final, and longest, work on the program, however, owed some of its
difficulties to the musical choices. Opening in silence, "Surrendering"
soon melted into a solo for Perry to a Tori Amos song. Perry, a
redhead wearing a silver slip, slid her body around, face-down in
a puddle of plastic snow. The stage was framed by four swaths of
sheer gray material attached to the walls (one went straight into
the "fourth wall" of the audience), with rumpled white fabric on
the floor in back, conceivably representing a snow drift. It started
to look like a great concept for a Tori Amos music video. I had
plenty of time to consider and reaffirm this notion, since the work
contained another Amos tune as well as a reprise of the first song.
I tried to consider the work as a live dance performance, but I
kept envisioning how much more apt it would look at a distance assisted
by video technology and real snow. Using contemporary music, especially
songs with lyrics, is a formidable challenge for any choreographer.
In this case, the music overwhelmed the choreography, turning the
movement into a visualization of the music.
The rest of "Surrendering"
was disappointing as a cohesive work. There was a brief foray into
vocalization in the middle as Costa and Perry hissed at two other
performers, then shouted phrases like "Amber I know you can hear
me!" and "Jennie, all you have to do is move!" Although I previously
bemoaned the sometimes too literal gestural representations of fear
and sorrow, I found myself missing the familiar clarity as the symbols
in "Surrendering" became less and less connected. By the end the
silvery dress Perry wore had been transferred to another dancer,
a music box had been placed on stage as accompaniment and Jennie
Sussman (an intern with The Dance Insider) concluded the work by
winding herself in the gray lengths of material which had been the
set, reaching away from her trap while dancing within its confines.
Sometimes our emotions
betray us in life; I felt this happen on stage in COREmovement project's
four dances devoted to fear, violence, surrendering, and sorrow.
There certainly were moments in which I saw, and felt, pure physical
experiences of those emotions and other instances when the emotion
seemed artificially distanced by a performatory device--as in the
symbol of the cloth binding Sussman in "Surrendering." I entered
the evening afraid of too much literalism, and left confused; I
had felt a natural balance in Costa's solo and at several other
points across the works, but how to keep that balance?
In the end, I remember
the dancing most. That this performance was at a space called The
Bridge seems apropos--it is a company of strong dancers in varying
stages of bridging the gap between fresh and talented to accomplished
performers. Costa himself is an experienced choreographer continuing
to experiment and evolve. His brand of release technique is simultaneously
smooth and energetic, a pleasure to watch. His bio notes that he
is "currently: formulating [a] new technique called COREmovement."
Formulating a technique is an ambitious goal--one that requires
continuous experimentation. Regarding experiments: "Surrendering"
was the only premiere on the program, and while not my favorite
of the evening's works it signified a vast departure and improvement
in terms of the use of space compared to the other pieces. While
"Transmission VI: 'Leaving Hurts Me Too'" was arresting, the movement
was trapped in a circle of space between candles. "Surrendering,"
by contrast, featured many journeys across the stage and used more
entrances and exits than any other work. Seeing the space filled
with movement was refreshing, but also calls for a larger stage
with real wings to disappear into. Again, the hazards, and challenges,
of studio performance.
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