REVIEW: Neil Greenberg’s “This” at NYLA
In discussing This, the work which premiered at New York Live Arts last week, Neil Greenberg makes it clear that the dancers were a very integral and very early part of the creative process. We, too, will start with them:
Omagbitse Omagbemi: resolute, inquisitive, confident; Molly Lieber: frank and sculptural, with the air of one who’s just returned from an enlightening daydream; Mina Nishimura: ethereal and impetuous; and Connor Voss: alive in every inch of skin, and hungry. From diverse backgrounds and choreographic histories, they’ve come together in a remarkable ensemble.
The movement material has been sourced from videos of improvisations by these four dancers: solos and duets only. This material has been spliced, set, reset, flipped, and paired, tripled, quadrupled – yet its initial integrity remains. Sometimes it seems obvious that a dancer is performing his or her own gesture: when Lieber thrashes the floor with her sweatshirt, for instance, or when Nishimura folds and unfolds her skeleton like a convoluted pop-and-locker. But one joy of This comes from watching each dancer curiously navigate another’s movement in his or her own body, becoming simultaneously more distinct and more connected throughout.
Many of the movement phrases in This, which are at once technically daring and quirky, have a tumbling stream-of-consciousness to them. Greenberg, even in setting material, has maintained the spontaneity and abandon of improvisation. The theater at New York Live Arts has been stripped of masking and wings, and sometimes we catch a glimpse of somebody casually watching from the shadows, leaning against a bare black wall. At one point Voss, Nishimura, and Lieber all step back and observe while Omagbemi whirls and slices in a dizzying solo. She is both entranced and entrancing. The motif of watching nods to questions of presentation. The performers cycle through solos, duets, trios, and quartets; the latter can be the most boisterous, as the dancers arrive at moments of spatial, rhythmic, or sculptural alignment, then popcorn apart again.
Joe Levasseur’s lighting is unexpected and rich. The instruments themselves seem to exist as performance objects. In one section, a handful of “looks” cycle on and off, suggestive of multiple perspectives. James Kidd Studio’s costumes imply a similar multiplicity, while also joining the performers by color and texture, creating a united visual field. This marks many firsts for Greenberg, from collaborators to process. Hopefully This leads to that, and then another thing.