– posted by Lisa Radon
Mills notes in the program that both pieces was choreographed from the score, and the movement tracked so closely to the sound (especially in the first piece which fairly relentlessly alternated between grating/ominous industrial-meets-heavy breathing sounds w/ violent movement and melodious violin &c. w/ fluid dancerly movement) we were begging for moments when the two would diverge.
Best about the pieces: the close partnering and manipulation of one dancer’s body by another in the “Elegy.” The piece used this and other devices to explore struggle and control (of self by self—witness balance points to which dancers returned repeatedly–self by others) and social negotiation of group by individual. The weight exchanges, push and pull, (in the second piece, one dancer on his hands-and-knees amusingly bulldozes another with his head…reminded me of the tortoises at OMSI last weekend) and physical manipulation of other were interesting.
Do the video elements make for interesting juxtaposition with or counterpoint (I accidentally typed “counterpoing,” a brilliant neologism, eh?) to the dance composition? Do they add layers of complexity, provide alternate possible interpretations of the movement? Alternatively do they bring anything into focus?
Some of the pitfalls of video include image dwarfing and/or distracting from dancers, or the very fact that in these pieces appears sporadically so one is left waiting for the next blow of oversized visual imagery…in the second piece in particular, there were just a few tiny snippets of video that appeared, but at seemingly random rather than critical moments.
It was the video that made the pieces feel as if they were struggling to be narrative, rather than being the music-driven pieces that they were. And if the video had more rigorously provided a third compositional leg for the pieces to stand on, rather than playing a dreamy duck-n-dodge at one moment, making pretty the next, and disappearing for extended periods of time, it could have blurred the close-tracking of dance to sound adding needed layers of juxtapositional complexity.
Maybe I’m spoiled. In Portland, we see a lot of great dance, much of it improvisational, that rejects narrative, often dealing with the weight and shape of the body, its relationship to floor and air and space, pedestrian movements, (the rejection of dancey hands and leg extensions)…I’m summarizing, of course. We also have great narrative dance-makers like Mike Barber and artists like Cydney Wilkes and Linda Austin who can engage meaning in a deliciously non-overt way, can have levels of complexity and uncertainty in meaning with precision and innovation in movement.
Two best micro-moments: 1.)dancers in a stylized way eating a handful of air/replacing breath into body and 2.) prone dancers hooking one foot under the other knee to leverage and roll self over.
ASIDE: Interesting to think about where dance goes when it’s been to the Kasimir Malevich “White Square” endpoint of pedestrian movement stripped of narrative and recognizable “dance.” Interesting to think about post-White Square strategies including complete abstraction, return-to-beauty, non-traditional narrative….
P.S. John Zorn’s Godard=spinning the dial on the radio. Not in a good way. If a piece of this nature had been created in the early 1900s it would have been brilliant. It was created in 1999.