Friday, April 29, 2016

Kimberly Bartosik: In close quarters at Gibney Dance

Lance Gries and (in background) Joanna Kotze
perform alone in Gibney Dance's Agnes Varis Performance Lab.
(photos above and below: Scott Shaw)



If you're lucky enough to get in--I almost was not!--your first experience of Étroits sont les Vaisseaux might be the shock of nearly bumping into its two dancers already standing, breathing heavily and eyeing each other just inside the studio door. Well, there's not a lot of "inside' to the lobby studio at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center. Choreographers seem to be increasingly drawn to its challenge.

For this world premiere by dance artist Kimberly Bartosik and lighting, sound and set designer Roderick Murray (Kimberly Bartosik/daela), audience seating must stop at around twenty. Chairs and cushions fill skimpy corners of the narrow space with the performance area marked off by tape strips. Dancers Joanna Kotze and Lance Gries don't get a lot of room to roam, but their powerful actions make that little space ring like church bells. Their more intimate actions make space disappear entirely.

Étroits sont les Vaisseaux ("Narrow are the vessels") draws inspiration from an Anselm Kiefer sculpture that is long, narrow (like the Gibney space) but also rough, forbidding, even violent in form. The performance runs precisely 24:50, with an 8pm performance recapped each evening at 9. That sounds short but proves to be just enough. We're sealed in--door closed; shade to the street window mechanically lowered--and so close to the performers as to be able to focus on individual sweat beads, strands of hair and fingernails.

Each dancer's focus varies--deep, quiet interiority; attempts to glimpse something other than each other; close engagement, loving and erotic in its implications. The spiky, birdlike Kotze gazes upward a lot, Gries, more compact and intense, often looks elsewhere. But then they do regard each other, almost touch, touch and guide, use one body as another's support, or melt away together towards the floor. Subtle sounds--thunder? crashing waves? a distant train?--imply an unseen environment that holds these two, perhaps an imagined or remembered "outside" to this radically confining "inside." We don't know who they are, but we can infer how they are, how they might have been and how they might yet be.

Leaving them is not easy, but when the time comes and the window shade draws up to once again reveal a mundane city street, we're literally shown the door (by Bartosik) and given access to our checked coats and bags. We leave Kotze and Gries to themselves and their lives. For all we know, these two beautiful dancers could have been in that narrow room forever and will remain so.

Étroits sont les Vaisseaux continues through Saturday, April 30 with performances at 8pm and 9pm. Contact boxoffice@gibneydance.org to inquire about ticket availability and standing room. For other information, click here.

280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan

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