Program One: Feature: Johannes Wieland, also with Edmund Christopher Melville, Ariel Osterweis, Mayuna Shimizu/Blue Muse Dance, Laura Peterson, Marronprater dance and music co., Gabrielle Lansner & Company, Nicole Berger and Dancers.
Program Two: Feature: Wil Swanson/Danceworks, also with Imago Dance Theater, Daniel Clifton, Torque Dance, Lisa Gonzales, Elizabeth Haselwood, Angharad Davies, Anita Cheng.
by Holly Messitt
September 12, 2003, Joyce Soho, New York
Each year, Dancenow/NYC, now in its ninth season, presents an opportunity for emerging and mid-career artists to present their work in a large, sprawling festival. This year, in ten days, the festival presented over 160 works. It’s exciting it is to see so many good dancers and so many interesting ideas presented one after the other. In two separate, eclectic shows last Friday night at Joyce Soho Dancenow/NYC presented new and emerging faces that confirmed that dance is still alive and well in New York.
The two featured pieces of the evening, Johannes Wieland and Wil Swanson (each in a separate show – those who wanted to stay after the first show had to walk outside and reenter with a new ticket for the second show) represented two opposing temperaments. The eight dancers in Wieland’s “Vertical” were isolated from each other. Their touch was always efficient, never intimate. Even though they began the piece by piling and wrapping around each other to form two different human sculptures, they remained separated individually throughout the piece. When they danced, their movement was efficient and sharp. The dancers averted their eyes, never looking at each other or the audience. Over and over a pair appeared as if they would embrace, but the embrace always halted mid-air and hung there without the bodies ever touching.
Wil Swanson created a very different world in “Cubic Legroom.” These dancers in diverse gold-hued costumes glittered as if they were dressed for clubbing. They smiled and winked at each other as they passed on stage. While most dancers paired off in the middle of the stage, if one decided to become a wallflower, the others would pull the person back into the group. As opposed to Wieland’s efficient touch, these dancers rarely stopped touching each other. One move used a taught grip as pairs of dancers pulled on each other’s weight in a centrifugal spin.
The other pieces during evening captured a wide diversity in mood and concern. “Eyes so White” with choreography and musical composition from Elizabeth Haselwood was a haunting round robin sing-song featuring Claire Benton, Haselwood, and Eileen Stevens. The slow swinging pendulum movement of the women’s bodies captured the mournful quality of their voices.
In “Beyond the Rain” from Edmund Christopher Melville we witnessed two stylish women, Dale Flemming and Ami Iapo, prance on stage in high heels, business suits and accessories, who then immediately stripped down to their underwear. Their discarded purses and shoes split the stage in half while their blazers and skirts served to frame their dancing from the front. Each woman moved back and forth on her side of the stage, sometimes moving like a model on a runway, other times borrowing moves from pilates and kickboxing. They were women on view, competing with each other for attention and admiration.
Also exploring the gaze was Ariel Osterweis in “Optical.” As she moved back and forth in front of a small round standing mirror, she controlled her movement as she gazed into the mirror. Only when she let her eyes drop from the mirror did she release the control and let her body move freely.
Many of the other pieces that evening mixed storytelling and dance. One of the cleverest pieces in this vein was “Almost Blue” from Daniel Clifton, told in a Smokey Mountain twang. He first appeared on stage in a gray oxford shirt and gray corduroys and told a story about falling in love with his girlfriend Violet as they both sat on top of his El Camino. As he striped off his shirt and put his hair back into barrettes, he pulled up a Violet dress and switched into a story about his best friend Gray. Once he laid the gray outfit on one side of the stage and the violet dress on the other side of the stage, we realized that the real story was of a young man split between his feminine side, Violet, and his masculine side, Gray. He was almost blue.
An emotionally touching and quirky piece came from Bethany Prater and James Marron. He played an acoustic guitar while sitting on a revolving stool and using his feet to push himself and Prater, perched on top of his shoulders, around. Slowly she wound her way down his body. In the process, Marron never stopped playing but always accommodated her movement, at times using the guitar as a pillow for her head and other times turning the guitar upside down so as to keep it out of her path.
Other interesting pieces included “Tiger Lily Suite” excerpted from Frankie’s Wedding, from Gabrielle Lansner & Company that used movement and text to relate the pain felt by Frankie, an outcast in a small southern community and considered a freak because of her unusual tallness. Throughout most of the piece the stage was visually cut in two, with Frankie, her mother, and her brother cast off to the side of the stage while two town girls repeated the town gossip about Frankie. In “Guest,” a minimalist piece by Anita Cheng Dance, Meg Harper danced against an almost bare stage. The only backdrop for her was a series of quickly flashed black and white sketches of household items, including a chair, table, and coffee cup. These images emphasized the empty space surrounding both the images and the dancer.