Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dancers--with Hilary Easton--at Danspace Project

Cast of Hilary Easton's I Am With You,
notably minus the choreographer
(photo: Joshua McHugh)

At the top of I Am With You--Hilary Easton's new, three-part ensemble at Danspace Project--the choreographer, although uncredited as a performer, files out with everyone else. She will appear in just these few moments of dancers lining up and rearranging their lines in different directions. When she leaves, I immediately miss her yet sense her knack for precision everywhere. So much so, that I catch myself fretting when one or more of the teens sharing space with Easton's seasoned dancers looks earnest but a little wet behind the ears. Then I drop that fretting because, for sure, Easton wants us to notice that burgeoning in all its freshness.

One thing these young special guests--Jahmir Duran-AbreuTara EagenZach FarnsworthIris Feldman, and Sidne Norman--have yet to master is a way to pull their individual selves up and back from the posable mannequin adjustments Easton has threaded through this piece, material for this section--"I Am With You (the first part)"--adapted from The Constructors, a work from 2012. One simple thing happens at a time, each doll-like body occupying its own patch of floor, each dancer attuned to the same pattern as everybody else. Bodies shift orientation, hands flip, heads shake, chins trace semicircles in the air--all affectless motion set to the fast clip of Mike Rugnetta's metronome-like music--until Michael Ingle first breaks rank and peels away, followed by one or two others.

The start of this first section of the piece shows us set and then reorganized lines of its performers, each presented as if for our inspection. But eventually, we find ourselves looking through and around dancers to see others behind them. Easton's layers and interactive connections between bodies form little windows, appearing, closing, reappearing somewhere else. We notice dancers gently touching others to facilitate their moves and a flow of lifts. I Am With You becomes a thicket of relationships so clean and calm and smooth, despite the real-world potential for human confusion, as to be idealized--which might or might not be intentional.

A blackout precedes the next section, "I Am With You (the middle part)." Then Jessica Weiss appears in a far corner of soft light before quitting it to take in more of the fullness that space allows. Limber, in superb control and with an expression of supreme confidence, this dancer is joined in her Edenic space by others who calmly lounge like felines or try their wings.

Michael Ingle and Alexandra Albrecht
dance the final section of I Am With You.
(photo: Joshua McHugh)

The full, complicating flower of Easton's work emerges in the conclusion, "I Am With You (the last part)," a lengthy, demanding duet for Ingle and Alexandra Albrecht set to passages from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. The choreographer separates two of her most remarkable mannequins across space yet bids them move in unison, down to every swivel and dip and flutter, with only an occasional glance in one or the other's direction. But the air around their mutual isolation heats up over time; they gradually move with more abandon than their untroubled faces will reveal. Glances, coming late in the duet, remain fitful, tentative, leading to nothing. Nothing there, at least. But Easton's final image of Albrecht excites: I think this doll has found her life.

Hilary Easton + Co.: Alexandra Albrecht, Hilary Easton, Michael Ingle, Pareena Lim, Joey Loto, Joshua Palmer, Emily Pope-Blackman, Jessica Weiss, and Evelyn Wheeler.

I Am With You will have its final performance tonight at 8pm. For ticket information, click here.

Danspace Project
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue), Manhattan

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