Thursday, September 18, 2014

Marissa Perel dreams it out

Marissa Perel - More Than Just A Piece Of Sky
Marissa Perel in More Than Just a Piece of Sky
at The Chocolate Factory
(photo: Madeline Best)
Marissa Perel seems so very far away.

Even in a smallish space where the white bed and bedding that cloak her hidden body are not only visible to all eyes but glowing in pristine, ghostly light.

When her audience enters the space, there might be a tiny sliver of skin to see. That's all.

Later, after Perel sits up in the bed, which she never leaves, we strain to hear her singing or speaking voice. But her alter egos--the dancers Lindsay Reuter and Jumatatu Poe, with whom Perel created More Than Just a Piece of Sky--extend her range into our world.

Choreographed and written by Perel, the performance fractures and refashions characters, text and--in one smart moment--vocal music from Barbra Striesand's 1983 movie, Yentl, itself sourced in "Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy," a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Yentl, you might recall from the film, is really a young Orthodox Jewish woman with a thirst for Talmudic knowledge in a culture that relegates women to home and family. Yentl's defiant self-disguise--her cross-dressing, name-changing strategy--works fine until... Well, just download Streisand singing "The Way He Makes Me Feel."

Presented at The Chocolate Factory as part of Queer New York International Arts Festival, the piece applies artfully arranged text, movement, video, music and lighting to invoke a dream state in which gender identity and roles shift like the moon through its cycles. I'm thinking especially of the delicate verbal and gestural exchanges between Reuter and Poe around a dangling microphone, but each instant of More Than Just a Piece of Sky is meant to show the many facets of difference as forms of sensual magic power.

A passage where Poe presses and slides his naked skin against a wall seems to slip into the ether, to evaporate, perhaps intentionally transient in its effect. Another sequence in which the dancers languidly roll across the floor in each other's embrace feels different, substantial, and is just gorgeous. But I suspect it is not a big deal to Perel to make an impact by making an impact. She might be more intent on charting an ephemeris of all that cannot be pinned in place.

More Than Just a Piece of Sky continues through Saturday with performances at 8pm. For more information, click here. For tickets, click here.

For a schedule of other events in the 2014 Queer New York International Arts Festival, click here.

The Chocolate Factory
5-49 49th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens

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