This evening at Dance Theatre Workshop something very special is taking place. Deganit Shemy's Arena, a full evening length work, gives the audience the chance to witness a supernova of the choreographer's fierce creativity and the dancers' acute aggression. In addition to being established as a multi-award winning choreographer, this New York and Israeli based choreographer also has the distinguished status of Artist-in-Residence at Dance Theatre Workshop, Dance New Amsterdam, Tribeca Performing Arts Center and Movement Research. After witnessing this display of choreographic fireworks, phenomenally rubik's-cubed together, I am not surprised that she is such an esteemed choreographer at such an early stage in her career.
Arena dives into the complex world of activities and emotions inside and outside a fight arena. Shemy's imagination is limitless as she vividly explores this world both literally and abstractly. There are moments of intense fighting, based in contact improv, inside the ring that interchange with abstract moments such as two girls wearing gas masks as they make kissing sounds and nuzzle each other. The bare stage littered with water bottles and other gym paraphernalia, is all dark except for a big square spotlight representing the arena (lighting by Lenore Doxsee). This simplistic yet effective presentation of the world of the arena parallels her choreography.
Very odd is the soundtrack (Tei Blow) that they dance to, and at first, it seems like just bubbling ambient noise, but soon, we realize that these shifting sounds are catalysts for some of the movement. Bells ring as they mark the end or the beginning of a tournament. Thunderstorms crash when a bottle of water is poured over someone’s head, and dancers react to an intense oncoming tide that forces them to fall back from the crashing waves, falling to the ground and flipping over in the opposite direction. Also, the two ticking metronomes on the stage add intensity to each match.
The five women, clad in gym shorts and sports bras, are the ultimate warriors with their fierce aggression and killer bodies! Deganit's choreography is very aggressive in itself including kicks to the lower back or the knee (as we hear the hard smack of a foot to skin), which dually initiates movement and a believable world of fighters in the arena.
These five feisty dancers are so in sync with one another! It is as if they have lived and breathed together for an extended period of time. There is really no rhythm in the music that they would otherwise use as a guide to stay together. Not only do they stay incredibly in sync when dancing in unison, but they also show off their skill of become entangled in a quicker than quick instant. Very impressive, is when the lights go black, and they go from being spread out all over the stage (and this is a very big space) to tightly intertwined in just a second. Now that is drop dead perfection! I officially give a Fierce-ness Award to the entire ensemble for their incredible awareness of one another!
Shemy uses the dancers' bodies to portray both animate fight scenes and inanimate objects in the ring. The most in your face inanimate object is the "ring ropes" that the dancers frequently become as they link arms in a straight line. Sometimes, a fighter will bounce off of the outside or the inside of the ropes much like a WWE fighter would, just for theatrical purposes. Sometimes, the dancers pair up and create two sets of ring ropes as the fifth girl tries to get through them. After she fails to get through them heading south, she tries to go east and west, but these human ropes are too quick for her, and they quickly change to prevent her from going that way either. When this fighter (Savina Theodorou, a hauntingly dynamic performer) dives through the human ropes, she bounces up and down as she becomes entangled in these these bungee-like human arm-ropes.
Tangled is something that these dancers constantly are, and when limbs start to kick and flail, there is no immediate telling which body the limbs belong to. Much of the group work is based in contact improvography (improvisation and choreography all mixed and mashed). Interesting is the way a lot of phrases repeat four of five times before moving on to the next section, really branding the intensity of each phrase, a brand that one is happy to go home with!
The fact that Deganit Shemy does not have any official dance training, but has studied Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation in depth, is such a unique blessing to the contemporary dance community. Her movement has the ability to be trademarked as Shemy movement because a lot of the vocabulary is absolutely untainted by familiar dance steps. Deganit Shemy is New York's unfiltered choreographer.
Thank you to all of the dancers in this evenings show for powerful, committed performances: Robin Brown, Erika Eichelberger, Denisa Musilova, Leah Nelson and Savina Theodorou.
iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Adrienne Jean Fisher
Choreographer: Deganit Shemy
Venue: Dance Theatre Workshop, New York City
Date: April 16, 2009 www.iDANZOnline.com
Photo by Anthony Collins
iDANZ - The Social Network Where Dancers Live!