Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pinel and Long: Choreography and the Goldilocks Principle

A moment from Nocturne by Alexandra Pinel
(photo: Brian Austin)

Choreography can tell too little. Or it can tell too much. A show of works by Alexandra Pinel and Vanessa Long, last night at Dixon Place, left me feeling like Goldilocks looking for something that's just right.

Pinel's four light-footed dancers squiggle across Allison Ball's video backdrop of animated contours which, in the dance's opening passage, resemble nestled, mute-colored lines of a topographic map. The dancers, themselves, could be abstracted features of a shifting landscape--arching away from the floor or rolling across it, skittering sideways or twirling. There's a toggling of outlandishness--in gait, in intensity--and fashion runway coolness, giving this work some quirky interest at the outset. You do wonder what comes next.

Pinel's strength appears to lie in her easy musicality, but Nocturne's techno beat landscape fails to inspire dance ideas with roots and development. Ideas arise--have the four women face one another in a close, dynamic and then looser circle; have dancers, for some reason, make slurping sounds when they lunge or extend; pose them face down with their butts wiggling for a second before they drum their fingertips into the floor. Stringing together these momentary bits sheds no light on the purpose of the work as a whole. An unclear, awkward ending does not help.

If I read the program right, Long's work is named for her company, Vanessa Long Dance Company LLC. As such, it's fair to think of it as a calling card. And, as such, it represents its eleven-member cast extremely well--in particular, Justin Heim, a standout as sharp as one of those hypodermic needles used as a prop in the piece. But, really, all of the dancers are in good form--brave and on target--in this demanding piece.

VLDCLLC--forgive the acronym--has much on its agenda. The choreographer's skills at gestural drama--literal, often cartoonish, sometimes feverishly so--make Long's ideas quite evident, delivered with no measure of subtlety. Let's check them off: We spend too much time looking at our electronic devices. We don't spend enough time looking at one another. We are busy, hectic urbanites. We are too competitive, in a soul-gutting rat race of winners and losers. We are driving ourselves crazy and drugging ourselves to death. We are in an emergency and woefully unprepared, groping around in the dark with only LED tea lights to decorate Apocalypse.

Long's capability and drive are undeniable, but we probably don't need a dramatic dance to illustrate these observations, at least not to this degree.

Closed. For information on the upcoming fall season at Dixon Place, click here.

Dixon Place
161A Chrystie Street (between Rivington and Delancey Streets), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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