REVIEW: Chunky Move at The Joyce Theater
But wait, it takes a second to get there.
What we see when we enter the Joyce house is an industrial and yet finely structured sculpture by kinetic sculpture artist Reuben Margolin. Margolin’s creation fills the stage. Its foundation is a wheel, mounted to a metal base, connected to hundreds of fine translucent strings that are threaded through a grid near to the ceiling and finally cascade making a perfect square of lines in the upstage right corner. It is immediately intriguing, even without Chunky’s movers.
As soon as the piece sets off, one male dancer begins to methodically connect measured slips of paper (lying on the back of the stage) between the strings using clips at the base of each. The process of connecting each string in this way is lengthy, like quilting. But we are distracted by Gideon Obarzanek’s flinging and falling choreography opposite the sculpture. Meanwhile, I am aware I am waiting for the reveal on this next level of Margolin’s moving set. I feel as if I am in line for a very popular ride; I know it will be good so I don’t mind the time it takes for me to reach it.
Slowly, the dancers find themselves near the wheel, being connected by one dancer in white to the strings. They look like wooden puppets back there, all strung up to this machine. Then the moment comes. The sculpture shows us its kinetic side.
In one breathtaking instant, the light changes and the strings tilt to show the grid of paper built by the dancers. According to the movements of each arm, each muscle of the dancers, the sculpture reacts in waves. It is so sensitive to their motion that every tiny shift catalyzes an equal a visualization in the grid. It seems to have life of its own. One dancer resides below it, and the other four move to encompass her in the folds of this breathing thing. It resembles closing wings around her. The affect is further explored when all the strings are tied to a one man, who is left with the woman under the sculpture. Their duet is so simple; it is composed of just steps and embraces, but we constantly check to see how such contact is reflected in the visual creation.
And now we are ready for the security guards.
Dancers return to the stage in suits and official brass tags. One tells a very true story: she had been watching her post when she stepped away for one instant only to have an “important work” stolen from the area of her jurisdiction.
As we bring our focus from the etheral visual set to this literal plot line, the sculpture waves gently above, powered now by the wheel. It is a symbol of such precious artworks, hanging protected in institutions. Through testimonials from each guard, we live the ups and downs of a day on the job. In New York guards are commonplace, and I begin to consider the types of people that pursue this lonely job. The security guards disrobe to take a moment of play, chasing one another around. They talk about their emotions, how they are consistently waiting for excitment, anything to distract them from an attention to detail that fixates on the floorboards or the specifics of the one piece they stare at. It is ironic that when that excitement comes it is in the form of a potential distaster. Obarzanek’s phrasework here incudes senstive use of space and gesture: the hands move simply but sensuously, hinting at the personal nature of making art.
As the story continues, we learn that the artwork they speak of (a sculpture itself) is miraculously returned. The person receiving the lost piece, however, mistakes it for trash. As the piece concludes, I begin to put it all together with the information I know. The kinetic sculpture is again lowered to eye level, rippling while hovering above our guards.
With increased use of technology in dance works, I applaud this unique collaboration. It is an obvious connection, though one not often seen: sculpture integrated and manipulated by movers. Oh the possibilities. Margolin, it seems was destined for dancers as one of his moving parts. Chunky Move brings us a piece that uses no media platform nor digital technology, and yet the simplicity of these mechanics, both physical and visual are ahead of their time.
Chunky Move continues their run of “Connected” through November 6. For tickets visit joyce.org.