Saturday night, the audience at 100 Grand Street was all abuzz, anticipating a wonderful performance of “Dear Peter, Love, Nora” a collaborative effort by Peter Chamberlin and Nora Petroliunas. They would not be disappointed, as what unfolds over the course of the evening is an amazing melding of dance, theater, audience participation, site specific work, an origami into an unforgettable, magical, and satisfying experience.
The program is split into two halves, the first of which consists of two works by Chamberlin. The first piece is a virtuosic study in speed, balance, and precision; performed by Chamberlin, himself. Backed by a haunting score, providing more mood than melody, he executes a repeating series of poses; each flowing into the next, often on one leg, always perfectly placed. As the dance progresses, the tempo gradually increases until, at the end, Chamberlin is a blur of speed moving continuously through each pose; never faltering, always calmly and coolly in control.
Rounding out the first half of the program is a duet for two jaw-droppingly gorgeous dancers, Hsiao-Jou Tang and Shayla-Vie Jenkins. Full of swift, fluid movement, the piece is flawlessly performed by the two long-legged beauties. Chamberlin shows an incredible awareness of space; using movement to highlight the stage and the distance between the dancers, he allows the space to become almost a third performer. Amongst this, the dancers seamlessly slip in and out of a series of counter-balances, somehow always finding their way back to their own power.
The second half of the program is a single piece by Petroliunas in which she invites the audience into a special world full of origami frogs, Christmas trees, secret notes, and luscious movement. For me, though, the magic actually starts with intermission where the dancers, who are about to perform, come out to help direct the audience in shifting our seats about the space to form three sides of a square. As people carry their chairs, they have to move through the performance space and, as they do so, dancers greet friends in the audience with hugs and chat just as easily with strangers. In that moment, everything is easy and accessible; a feeling Petroliunas then carries forward through her whole piece.
The piece starts in truth with Lesley Garrison walking around and turning on house lamps which warmly light the space. She then joins the other five white-clad dancers, at which point they all burst into full-bodied, individual movement.
A favorite moment comes when Tang instructs the audience in folding a white square of paper which each person is given during intermission. After many steps she chimes, “if you did it right, it’s a frog.” Mine doesn’t quite look like a frog, but as Julia Burrer comes around to collect the frogs into a cereal box she reassures each person, “don’t worry, they are all beautiful.” Later, our slightly misshapen, but "beautiful" frogs are strewn on the floor in a long path only to be picked up again and then scattered on another part of the floor.
Later, members of one half of the audience are handed school milk cartons and told to read the message inside. Following the message, which instructs us to go to the window and look outside, we see Burrer and Tang standing on the sidewalk, two floors down. They perform a beautiful duet which is also performed inside the space by another couple. For a moment, I feel sorry for the rest of the audience, which doesn’t get to share the magic of viewing the duet through the window, with all of the absurd, juxtaposed beauty of cars, bikes, and other passers-by; but then I realize that they are all sharing in an equally odd experience that I am missing: watching the same duet while half the audience turns their backs and looks out the window!
In another moment, audience members are brought into the space, seemingly invited to shift their perspective. The dance continues around these new, living set pieces until the dancers climb out a window and origami birds are set free, ending the piece.
Each part of the evening is an amazing display of dance, an yet the show as a whole is still greater than the sum of its incredible parts. My advice is that the next time you have a chance to see choreography by Peter Chamberlin and Nora Petroliunas just put down the bag of Doritos, get off the couch, and go see the show!
iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Hope Davis
Performance: Dear Peter, Love, Nora
Choreography: Peter Chamberlin and Nora Petroliunas
Venue: 100 Grand Street, New York City Performance
Date: Saturday, August 29th, 2009
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