Thursday, July 25, 2013

On the "Glitter" trail at Abrons

Rebecca Warner's dancers (photo by Steven Schreiber)
Summer's here and the time is right...for glitter. Lots of it.

It's in the spirit of play, of independence, of risk and change, of eros, ecstasy, the unknown and the burgeoning.

Ben Pryor's got glitter--namely, Festival TBD: Emergency Glitter, the first summer festival to arrive from the founder of winter's annual, critically-acclaimed American Realness fest. If you've slipped into a creative funk or a rut or a case of the way-too-serious, pick up some emergency glitter at Abrons Arts Center, now through Sunday, where Pryor will showcase Niall Jones, Emily Wexler, Rebecca Patek and other young creative talents in contemporary dance and performance.

Rebecca Warner and Burr Johnson's shared program, which opened last night and repeats tonight at 8:30pm and Saturday at 4pm, is a beaut. Both artists lavishly honor the Abrons main stage with the glitter of theatrical excitement. Both bring the thrill of open, brisk, upbeat, clearly designed movement to this theater as audience members, seated onstage, watch closely from within the perimeter.

This intimate closeness produces pure magic, acting like a magnifying glass on everything. Warner's Into Glittering Asphalt distills entertainment dance (Broadway, movies and the like) for the big, expansive moments and movements that rev up energy in performers and viewers alike. Alone or in unison, dancers skim, turn and skate across the floor in numerous arrangements and repeating patterns. The last to join in, Siobhan Burke introduces an especially coltish element, but her colleagues--Evvie Allison, Rachel Berman, Ashley Handel and Juri Onuki--are also sharp and exhilarating to watch.

Johnson's gorgeous duet with Reid Bartelme also uses the stage in reverse, also directs the stage-bound audience's gaze towards bits of action in the theater aisles and seats they would normally occupy. (By the way, Miguel Gutierrez tried this same subversive trick at Abrons years ago, and I loved it then, too.) But unlike the theater-centered feel of Warner's ensemble piece, Johnson's Shimmering Islands conjures a beach scene out of thin air, pulls memories and images over the stage space like a rippling net.

Dressed in colorfully printed jumpers (designed by Bartelme) that feminize their sleek, sculpted, perfectly aligned physiques, the dancers invoke spaciousness as they prance, bound, lunge and leap. The modest space does not seem sufficient to contain everything that they bring to it--from the wingspan of pelagic birds to the sensuous and powerful tumbling of surf. The lighting reflected off Abrons' shiny white floor alters along with the temperature of the music--from Robyn's "Indestructible" to Dvorak's New World Symphony, that latter choice encoded with connection to the Apollo moon landing. (Neil Armstrong took a recording onboard.) Shimmering Islands looks like optimism, joy and the marriage of the pleasures of this world with the promise of breakthrough to worlds yet unexplored.

For tickets and information on this and all other Festival TBD: Emergency Glitter events, click here.

Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand Street (corner of Pitt Street), Manhattan

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