This was my first time seeing a performance at Joyce SoHo, which has a very different feel from The Joyce Theater in Chelsea. This smaller theater allowed for me to have a more intimate viewing of the dancers and films that were presented on stage. In fact, no seat was a bad seat, which could not be said for many theaters in New York City, including The Joyce in Chelsea.
I was not entirely sure what to expect for the evening since each show in the New Dance Alliance 23rd Annual Performance Mix Festival had different works from different companies each night for ten nights. A total of 30 companies from all over the globe presented their works. Even without much expectations, I was still thrown for a loop the moment the first film began to roll.
Janusz Jaworski's A Measure of Silence was just that. After rushing to the theater, listening to the screeching of the subways on their tracks and trying to locate the theater and my seat, this film was drastically quiet and simple. I almost wondered if the contrast to the daily life of a New Yorker was the intention behind this film. I appreciated the grainy film texture and the black and white color sans sound.
More or Less Content by Andrew Wass was another work that could be described well from its title. This dance, about the inevitability of our own demise, was about two people having just met in a crowded train station and suddenly faced with a life-changing decision to choose love over their careers. A horrific and provocative portrayal of disease that begged the question of what modern science could do to save or destroy the human race, this dance was sometimes even hilarious if not absurd. This dance was about...well the sound track to the dance goes on and on saying what this dance is about, or could be about. What is it about? You can create your own. This dance could have been about everything, since anything going on in Andrew Wass's mind during the choreography process could have subconsciously influenced his actions in rehearsals. Or perhaps I could be over thinking it, and, this dance was simply a dance. I thought the piece had an interesting concept, and the audience certainly enjoyed the work more and more as the dance went on.
Diana Quinones Rivera created the film White Oaks which was made possible by the Howard Gilman Foundation and filmed during a residency through The Field's Artward Bound program at White Oak. This colorful, crisp imagery, with no set plot pattern, included a man and a woman in short scenes shot on different locations around the White Oak facility. Each scene had a sense of stillness for each start, and then, the two people moved slightly in the space. This reminded me of postcards that you could step inside of and see a short scene (almost the way that pictures continue to move in the "Harry Potter" stories). My favorite moment was when the two people were in a bowling alley that had two lanes and green walls with tall square archways. The woman was on one side and the man was on the other; we witnessed the pins being set up in the horizon and a red bowling ball coming forward and slowly rolling back and forth on it's track, "causing" the two people to fall over as if they were pins themselves. This film, like the last one, also challenged my sense of patience, and I'm sure most people would have a hard time following this with the average attention span becoming shorter and shorter thanks to the media ==> bright colors, smiling people, wanting you to buy something that you don't even need. Sometimes when you watch a film that is not trying to sell you something, or blow something up or speed fast by, or is shot without some love-triangle drama, we instantly notice a difference. The lack of "shock value" can be the most shocking.
Knife inc. presents Artifact, (work-in-progress excerpt), was a witty commentary on present-day economy struggles in the business world. The piece features a woman playing the character of a boss in her office as she deals with the pressure of boredom in her own life and the expectations that others have on her. Writer and director Aya Ogawa turned every day movements such as standing in an elevator, walking on the street, or sitting in a chair at a desk job, into choreography and staging. I laughed out loud with the rest of the audience when the angry office workers, upset that they were losing their jobs because of the failed economy, bust out into Michael Jackson's "Thriller." I really enjoyed this piece, and my boyfriend who came with me loved it. Thank goodness I'm a DANCER. But, for those of you who love dance and have a friend in the business world, I suggest that you bring them to see this piece whenever it performs again; you'll have plenty to talk about afterwards.
Stolen (excerpt) by Yvonne Meier had one of the most curious beginnings to a piece that I had ever seen. The lights came up on Yvonne Meier and Antonietta who were hidden completely under large sheets of aluminum foil. After a few minutes of one blob of foil moving towards the other blob of foil that kept backing away -(with the audience finding it difficult to control their laughter), Ben Pryor came out dramatically with two long wooden polls and started playing with the tin foil and breaking it into pieces. Ben then had to perform odd movement tasks. One included being blindfolded and made to crawl on a long electrical cord on the floor, and the other involved being tied to the flat end of a little wooden table and trying to back bend until all the table legs were evenly on the ground on a small piece of carpet that Antonietta kept moving away from him to make it harder. He finally set his table down successfully, and while still being tied to it, Antonietta and Yvonne tied ropes to two opposing wooden legs. On the count of three, the two ladies pulled until both legs broke off in unison, and Ben came crashing down, thus ending the dance with a bang.
Elegant Heathens (excerpt) by Deborah Dunn was another piece that didn't take itself too seriously. My friend who worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company would have LOVED this dance that almost seemed like a spoof on the Shakespearean rehearsal process. Five dancers in costumes of the Shakespearean time period pranced around with hilarious facial expressions detailing their relationships and opinions of one another. There was an amazing moment when one of the dancers was rehearsing with her banana and another dancer was acting as her coach for the scene telling her to give all of her energy to the banana. The other dancers watched as the soloist stood under the spotlight holding the banana and doing subtle things with it that drove the dancers wild to the point of sexual obsession. The displeased "director" character was upset with the soloist, however, and screamed at her, "This is NOT how we treat a BANANA!" causing her to throw a physical fit. Ha ha ha, I loved that part so much. Really delightful!
All in all I felt the night was much more theatrical than anything else. I would call the dancing in the show performance art more than anything. While this show held a different aesthetic than high extensions and fierce pointe work, I do feel like this work is far more relatable to broader adult audiences of today. Moreover, the beauty of seeing a show at Joyce SoHo was that you could be literally sitting next to the directors and dancers in the show, and afterwards, possibly get a chance to have drinks and socialize with them right in the lobby telling them what you think of their work. I loved the social, community vibe. I'm probably the most shy person I know when it comes to greeting dancers after a show, but even I mustered up the courage to say congrats to Joan, the "business woman" soloist from the Knife Inc. piece, for her outstanding ability to look me straight in the eye during her performance.
Photography by David Hawe
iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Jessica Shahinian
Performance: New Dance Alliance Presents Performance Mix Festival
Choreographer(s): Lower Left Performance Collective, Aya Ogawa, SHUA Group, Yvonne Meier, Deborah Dunn
Venue: Joyce SoHo, New York City
Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 8:00pm
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