'Near Life Experience'
At the edge of existence
by Holly Messitt
November 3, 2004 -- Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, New York
The program notes told us that "Near Life Experience" was a result of Angelin Preljocaj's climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, where he was struck with the idea to depict those experiences when "we near zones which hover on the edge of existence." It was a fuzzy concept to begin with and the piece floated in this fuzzy state throughout the ninety-minute piece. Though the dancers moved beautifully, it was hard to be completely excited by "Near Life Experience."
"Near Life Experience" began sensually, as one man weaved his body in and out of the rungs of a referee's chair and a woman opposite him moaned into a microphone. Seductive, no doubt, but the two participants were a stage's length apart, never touching. Throughout the piece dancers, holding a trance-like gaze, interwined bodies in embraces and lifts, but the point was to show the difficulty they had coming together. The musical score from Air, which included all kinds of electronic sounds ranging from buzzing computer blips to melodic guitar rifts, underscored this mechanical relationships between the dancers.
Despite the listless mood, however, there were surprising and lovely moments in the piece, including one dancer who taped goblets over the periphery of her arms, knees, ankles, and back. As she moved, the goblets chimed. In another vignette, three men lifted one woman as she jumped over fishbowls placed on the floor. One recurring image was balls of red yarn that lay scattered across the floor. At times the dancers rolled the balls across the floor to each other. In another scene the women wrapped themselves in the yarn while performing what appeared to be a bodily form of cat's cradle.
Finally, after images of entrapment, nightmare, and near misses, in the end the dancers coupled, and the seduction was no longer a stage's length away. Here, the couples writhed together on the floor until, in the penultimate vignette, a man and a woman danced together naked (most of the dancers were clad throughout the piece in stylized undergarments). They appeared on stage dragging thick ropes attached to a ball of red yarn large enough to contain a human body, which in fact it did contain. From the ball emerged a man covered in whipped cream, which was the last image in the performance.
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