REVIEW: Gallim’s Blush at BAM
Dance has the special distinction of being both the pinnacle and precursor of society. Long before there were pointe shoes, galas and gilded theaters, dance bridged the gap between animals and early humans, in many cultures playing a critical role in the formation of a collective identity.
On Wednesday night at BAM Fisher, Gallim Dance embodied this duality in Blush, a work by Andrea Miller named for the sanguine rush that accompanies a wide range of human activity and emotion. Sophisticated as it was in structure, style and technique, it was its underlying primitive impulse that spoke most truthfully to the heart of dance.
A mysterious atmosphere takes hold even before the performance begins. The set is limited to a white tape rectangle on the floor and a row of white footlights, but the stage lights illuminated a powdery suspension in the air that created a foreboding feel.
The dancers are also coated in white powder, giving them a ghostly appearance, but it dramatically drips and smudges on their bodies throughout an hour of explosive movement. “We move, but ignore the inner voice that calls us to push out from the edges of our skin,” writes dancer and associate director Francesca Romo in a program note. As exertion causes the dancers’ own blush to break through the white paste on their skin, it seems that they are ignoring that inner voice no longer.
The dancing itself is steeped in Gaga, the spasmodic, yet structured style of Miller’s mentor, Ohad Naharin. Crystalline formations cyclically shatter into chaos and resolve anew. Reptilian squats and crawls and volcanic bursts of energy hark back to the beginning of time, while swan arms and other winks to classicism seem to say, “But look how far we’ve come” — tongue firmly in cheek.
Ironic punctuations aside, Blush is a raw and earnest work that does not shy from extremes — and the dancers boldly follow. They submit to being flung toward the rafters and caught midair, upside down. Floating lifts and balances perilously fall apart. Tender and violent, supportive and hostile, fragile and strong, Blush is a reverent ode to the humanity that unfolds between these extremes.
The vast range of emotions explored in the piece is matched by an improbably eclectic score that includes Manyfingers, Chopin, Andrzej Przybytkowski and Wolf Parade, among others. Somehow it all works, but this is as much a testament to Miller’s vision as it is to the fiercely strong dancers who executed it. Had they not been so comfortable in Miller’s style, as demanding emotionally as it is physically — or so trusting of one another — then the whole thing easily could have felt disjointed and confused. But so fully did they give themselves to every moment on stage that I never once questioned them.
In the celebratory finale, a female dancer lifts a corner of the white tape from downstage left and peels it all the way back to upstage right, inviting the other dancers to defy the boundaries that confine them. As I joined my fellow audience members in an uproarious standing ovation, it seemed we were all just as eager to accept her invitation.