Thursday, October 9, 2014

New York Live Arts: RoseAnne Spradlin opens world premiere

RoseAnne Spradlin presents g-h-o-s-t c-r-o-w-n (working title) 
at New York Live Arts (photo: Ian Douglas)

It became quite clear, during parts of g-h-o-s-t c-r-o-w-n (working title), a world premiere by RoseAnne Spradlin at New York Live Arts, that the choreographer fully intended to keep on keepin' on. In her space-time groove. Doing it. Over and over. For whole audacious blocks of time.

And, of course, that meant that her dancers--Natalie Green, Rebecca Warnerdevynn emory, Athena MalloySaúl Ulerio and, to a lesser extent, Asli Bulbul--would live within that groove, too, body and soul, until crawling bands of white light revealed the slick sweat of their staring faces.

And that set a challenge on the rest of us as well. Even to simply watch this hour of dance is to invest in it as Spradlin requires: in for a penny, in for a pound.

Here is a structure that, in theory, should produce tedium and the fidgeties but instead produces sparks of electricity and even wonder.

Spradlin, in her opening-night post-performance conversation with Tere O'Connor, had few theoretical/philosophical things to say about her process in making g-h-o-s-t c-r-o-w-n (working title), which, for my taste, was more than okay. She seems intuitive and practical about her practice rather than analytical. In trying things out, she finds and makes sense; she finds and makes the dance. What she has whipped up here is such a witchy spell, that when, at the end of things, it just sort of evaporates, lifts away from the stage without concluding punctuation--O'Connor called the end "profoundly uneventful"--you know things really haven't ended as far as you're concerned.

Time keeps on slipping into the future, dangerously alive because Spradlin and dancers have transmitted something into the viewer's nervous system.

It starts, in all innocence, with Green and Warner, dressed in shiny, transparent dresses, bounding and spinning about, arms flaring, like delicate but restless sprites--visions out of some ballet with a little Duncan or Loie Fuller touches mixed in. These creatures look pretty and inconsequential and familiar. (We are not yet afraid.) And, of course, they rewind and retract their steps at times, as you would imagine flitting sprites might do. Jeffrey Young's music--performed live by the composer and musicians tucked nearly out of sight at the side of the space--brings to mind the drone of flying insects or perhaps the sound that vibrating wings might make, undetected by our ears, as a hummingbird bird sups at a flower.

The blank white wall would create a sense of untouched space if it were not for the hovering presence of an enigmatic structure--Glen Fogel's kinetic sculpture Something (black)--that dominates one portion of the space throughout the piece and casts a shadow like a huge onion sliced in half. This sculpture will eventually rotate, pulse little streams of amber light and tease one's peripheral vision as dancers dance or film scenes run along the rest of the wall.

The sprites flit on, past the point at which you might logically expect a shift, and this is the first indication that Spradlin means to mess with time--and with us. The next comes when the dancers exit, and a projected film has ample time and space almost all to itself; there still is that sculpture over there, after all.

The film, a 1931 melodrama from China re-edited by Spradlin, races by in silence, its original ninety minutes of dramatic action and florid emotion compressed into a mere nine. Still, there is a lot of time in that nine. A lot. And we pick up its information, though, just not consciously. We might find ourselves peeking at Fogel's sculpture, now and again, or peeking at the film in order to keep an eye on that sculpture and understand it better. But, whatever our choice, we're absorbing data and rhythms from two distinct channels simultaneously.

Spradlin moves in for the kill with what she has called the "kicking section." (I love that while O'Connor calls it the "battement section," she persists in saying "kicking.") An enhanced corps of sprite-like beings--Green and Warner now joined by emory, Malloy and Ulerio--move about in synchronized step-kick-step-turn patterns that advance and swirl along the floor. Their basic steps, with percussive footfalls, gradually give way to directional and interweaving variations that, over long duration, allow occasional individual accents, such as a dancer raising a hand to her temple or to his throat or loosening her hair. These simple, momentary human touches remind us that industrial, even military, repetition is performed here by actual people. In each dancer, in different ways, the inner life of the body shows up, reveals something about itself and what it feels and wants in the moment.

By the time Spradlin is finished with this section of the dance--an 18-minute stretch--it is impossible to escape the entrainment of that sound of feet striking the floor. She's got us.

Original score for live performance: Jeffrey Young (composer, violin, live electronics), Hannah Levinson (viola), Mara Mayer (bass clarinet) and Lisa Dowling (bass)

Sculpture and projected visuals: Glen Fogel

Film re-editing: RoseAnne Spradlin

Lighting: Stan Pressner / Ben Hagen

Costumes: Walter Dundervill

g-h-o-s-t c-r-o-w-n (working title) runs through Saturday with performances at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

Related programming:

Thursday, October 9: Come Early Conversation: Carla Peterson--Director of Florida State University's Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, MANCC--in conversation with RoseAnne Spradlin

Saturday, October 11, 1-4pm: Shared Practice: Process-focused workshop with RoseAnne Spradlin. $20, advance purchase recommended.

New York Live Arts
219 West 19th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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