REVIEW: Week Two Gotham Dance Festival
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]uesday night, Kate Weare Company took the Joyce stage in the continuation of Gotham Dance Festival. Weare showed two works: “Lean-to” a popular piece from 2009, and a world premiere of the mystical and lush “Garden,” Weare’s newest creation. After this, my first encounter with the company, I am smitten.
“Lean-to” is as on edge as it gets. The curtain rises to reveal a starkly white, sail-like structure by Kurt Perschke as a power trio (dancers Adrian Clark, Douglas Gillespie and the unforgettable Leslie Kraus) surely and slowly initiate an interaction which cannot be distinguished as battle or alliance. The feeling on stage is that of total awareness, like right before an attack when ears are perked, hair stands on end and insignificant sound seems explosive. Even the audience seems to lean in a little closer to make sure they don’t miss it.
But the control exhibited by the three performers–the clear readiness, lucid focus and unwavering balance–makes the piece somehow simultaneously calm. Just as I am about to note that the dancers are holding their breath to achieve stiffness, I am proven wrong, as I hear each movement in the scramble-and-freeze accompanied with real breath. Weare has truly found fluidity alongside staccato action. I am pleasantly challenged by this dichotomy and also eluded by the tenderness I feel in the choreography which has so much aggression. They have tangled my reactions.
[quote_right]The feeling on stage is that of total awareness, like right before an attack when ears are perked, hair stands on end and insignificant sound seems explosive. Even the audience seems to lean in a little closer to make sure they don’t miss it.[/quote_right]
After the intermission, “Garden” reveals its own striking set: a tree hung upside-down in the upper right corner and a stump opposing it on the left. The image is allowed to settle with a patient beginning featuring a duet juxtaposed with a solo on this power diagonal. The interactions that ensue between “Garden’s” quartet (Weare joins the previous three to complete the company) are exploratory, playful, and at times animal-like. There are also gender distinctions. The men dance together in unison while the women observe, walking in circles. The women, when alone, engage in almost a teach and follow sequence. When the four join, they skip and run jubilantly, as if in a court dance. The energy, however, does not plateau here. It ebbs to complicate the subject. Soon, the stump takes on sacred or symbolic weight, as dancers return to it for solo phrasework. One male, Clark, takes clear leadership of the group and the other three follow with allegiance, but not blind support. The conclusion then is a question of individuality and group dynamic, of history and what is to come. The inventive vocabulary of “Garden,” paired with the force fields of “Lean-to” makes for a totally visceral tasting of Weare’s choreography.
Wednesday brought CorbinDances to Gotham Dance Festival, with a new piece entitled “Shady.” Comprised of eight different sections, all set to changing music selections, “Shady” wavered between a character study and a dynamic group movement . Although there are common movement and spacial motifs that connect the sections, I wonder if “Shady” is in Corbin’s mind a full evening work or a compilation of separate thoughts. In the first half of the piece, there is an elusive dark force at play as dancers approach eachother and the movement with suspicion. They are pulled off their centers by unseen forces, and they seem pulled against their will into whirling and collapsing. Soon, the piece introduces a solo by Corbin’s Michael Trusnovec, whose strong sensual quality evokes a Footloose-like exploration of his own identity. Next, in section “three” (the most gripping section for me) members of the company trade the spotlight for a gestural section: in place, they measure, attach, wrap, tie, wind, pull and drop what is unmistakably, albeit invisible, a length of string. Their pinched fingers and quizzical focus are consistent, but some dancers’ strings are more believable than others. Because the string is an imagined element, I want to know its exact thickness, texture and weight from the way they handle it–a tough but essential task. In “four” we see a love triangle, one girl left in slow motion in the background as a pas de deux occurs. The second half soon reveals what seems another trio, one couple in turmoil, this time both males. This time the interaction ends with a prolonged kiss, which seems to jump out of left field. Group sections, sprinkled in between, lose focus on the ideas brought forward. The movement is exciting, but the questions distract me.
[quote_left]Because the string is an imagined element, I want to know its exact thickness, texture and weight from the way they handle it–a tough but essential task.[/quote_left]
When “Shady” concludes with the company now all in white rather than the previous black, there is an implied peaceful resolution. But I feel left behind in how we got there. I would have rather stayed with Corbin’s invisible strings the whole evening, and seen what wonderful transmutations were possible.
Gotham Dance Festival concludes for this go-round. I can’t wait to see who Ken Maldonado will bring to us next. We’ll be waiting.