Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Annual Between the Seas festival explores dance

Between the Seas Festival 2014 offered a "preview performance" of a solo by Nejla Yatkin (Turkey) who has forged a broad international career in dance and choreography. What dreams may come, its title sampled from Hamlet's meditation on death, bears Yatkin's stylish stamp. Even at its most mystifying and overextended, it is inhabited by an expressive performer who grasps the visual power of the stage even when she chooses to leave it for a curious walkabout in audience space.

When she first appears, backed by a cavernous soundscape of amplified exhalations, Yatkin can barely be recognized for the low lighting and the stretchy, jet-black cloth that wraps her upperbody. (We're left to ponder the contradiction of this piece of fabric that evokes an anonymizing chador while its bearer goes barelegged.) She pulls against the fabric, which is attached just beyond a doorway onto the stage, and its shadow and hers expand and loom across the back wall. Sometimes star-like flecks skitter across these inky masses. She writhes, twists, folds to the floor, lunges, bends her spine like a bow, makes wings and snakes of her arms to a gentle flow of Near Eastern-sounding melody. Eventually, she frees herself from the restrictive length of cloth, which snaps back into the doorway. The dervish spins, which soon come, seem pat, but if making a lovely impression is what the incredibly striking Yatkin is after, she succeeds.

Does "preview performance" mean that this solo is a work-in-progress or planned as part of a larger work, or that its premiere will happen elsewhere? That's not clear, but brevity would heighten its impact. The segment where where Yatkin appears to test out some potential dancing partners before twining herself around a few unfortunately seems tacked on, coming late in the piece. These interactions--tentative at first, then more comfortable, and finally generously flowing in a duet with a female dancer obviously planted in the audience--convey feeling and a growing desire to connect and be known.

Italy's ASMED-Balletto Teatro di Sardegna presented the world premiere of ARAGOSTA (Lobster), a trio by the Sardinian-born, London-based choreographer Moreno Salinas. Danced in the nude from start to almost finish by Francesca Assiero Brà, Anna Paola Della Chiesa and Rachele Montis, it's a fashion show, of sorts, introduced as such--which creates a bit of a shock when the first "model" strides out completely bare. The models stroll towards and away from the audience, drawing even more attention to their nakedness with nearly continuous (and increasingly monotonous) polyrhythmic body percussion. Variations include poses, gestural and facial expressions and occasional speech in Italian. Like Yatkin's solo, the piece feels overlong but benefits from its performers' focused strength. Salinas' inspiration, designer Elsa Schiaparelli--she who collaborated with Salvador Dalí on her famous Lobster Dress--would be tickled by their moxie and audacity.

Between the Seas, New York's summer festival of performing arts based in the diverse cultures of the Mediterranean, continues through Sunday at The Wild Project. For a schedule and ticketing information, click here.

The Wild Project
195 East 3rd Street (between Avenues A and B), Manhattan
(map/direction)

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