Saturday, January 18, 2020

Mariana Valencia in "AIR"

Mariana Valencia in her 2019 solo, Bouquet
(photo: Madeline Best)


AIR
by Mariana Valencia
Performance Space New York
January 9-11, 16-18

Very early in Mariana Valencia's new solo piece, AIR, she half-drops into a space of privacy with a person who has come out of the audience to sit in front of her, back turned to the rest of us, and assist her as she makes a change of clothing. You can only see Valencia's steady eye contact with this aide, who is Black, and mostly only hear Valencia's end of whatever verbal exchange might be going on, since the other person, in her few responses, is very soft-spoken. Valencia has already shown herself to be a self-possessed, warm and wry presence and continues to do so throughout this segment. So she easily holds our gaze and interest in place even though her attention is lavished on her helper. What a moment and what a performer--at once, holding us at bay, gathering us in and suspending us between worlds!

Truth be told, she had me at Lotería, the oversized, cream-colored sheet of paper she distributed to each of us (instead of the usual program notes, which we'd get on the way out) after we took our seats. Inspired by the popular Mexican card game of the same name, this sheet, printed in green, served as a clever introduction to a variety of popular culture figures of Mexican descent--from tv astrologer Walter Mercado to Tejano music star Selena to film actress María Félix--cited as major influences on Valencia's life and aesthetics. The first touch of this sheet of paper took me out of "downtown" and all that means as I believe it was supposed to do. It opened up a sense of another influx of energy, a source of creativity that is most often unknown, ignored, devalued and certainly unexpected in these climes, and that felt really, really good.

AIR asks us to consider the what-if of putting kids on stages instead of cages. Its random cinder blocks and white plastic crates suggest an environment of denial--I invite you to contemplate both uses of that word--that diminishes us all. And its prancing, spritely performer uses a droll sense of humor to persuade us how effortless it can sometimes be for marginalized people to absorb and slip into the codes of another culture--from picking up how to say "hello" in England to switching from butch to femme clothes in a Popeye's restroom on your way to a fancy wedding. It's a celebration of a kind of genius and maybe a subtle lesson for us all.

Lighting: Kathy Kaugmann
Sound Engineering: Jules Gimbrone
Music: Jazmin Romero

AIR's last performance happens at 7pm this evening. For information and tickets, click here.

Performance Space New York
150 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Joyce's American Dance Platform: UBW and DCDC

Chanon Judson of Urban Bush Women
(photo: Gennia Cui)

American Dance Platform: Urban Bush Women and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company
The Joyce Theater
January 7 and 12

If it's true what they say about how viewers' mirror neurons respond when audiences look at dancers moving, and you attended The Joyce on Tuesday night for American Dance Platform, your mirror neurons likely got a serious workout. Evidence for that, from me, is how exhausted I felt the next morning as if even every toe nail and eyelash I possess were worked to max from watching Urban Bush Women (UBW) and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), two troupes of extraordinary physical daring and power. More evidence came from the way the opening night audience responded in the moment. I'm not talking about the expected, and justified, standing Os and rousing cheers; I mean those very Black mmmhmmms, the audible sighs, the cries, the groans and other unrestrained vocalizing that greeted DCDC dancers killing it during Abby Zbikowski's Indestructible (2018) with apparently zero fear of bodily wear-and-tear. If, in a sense, we all danced along with UBW and DCDC as we witnessed them, I await my Bessie nomination.

With the very recent departure of Du'Bois A'Keen, UBW is back to being an all-woman company. My favorite on the evening's bill (to be repeated this coming Sunday) was UBW's Women's Resistance, an excerpt from les écailles de la mémoire (Scales of Memory) with choreographic direction from founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Germaine Acogny with additional choreography from eight former and current UBW members. It takes a village. And, indeed, looks like a village...of disciplined women warriors demonstrating their earth-sprung, spring-loaded battle-readiness within a sonic environment where shredding mechanical rhythms suggest both how formidable these women are and how menacing are the forces they are up against. UBW paired this ensemble with Zollar's 1989 I Don't Know, But I Been Told, If You Keep On Dancin' You Never Grow Old, which now includes segments from visible (2011), made by nora chipaumire and Marguerite Hemmings. And, yes, there is a definite connection and throughline--similar resourcefulness, ingenuity and high skill even in the midst of play that some might unwisely consider trivial.

UBW performers: Courtney J. Cook, Melissa Cobblah Gutierrez (Understudy), Jasmine Hearn, Chanon Judson (Co-Artistic Director), Love Muwwakkil, Samantha Spies (Co-Artistic Director), Elaisa van der Kust, Makaila Ware

Taking on Indestructible, Ohio's venerable DCDC--founded in 1968 by Jeraldyne Blunden and now directed by her daughter, Debbie Blunden-Diggs--was right in tune with the night's audacious mood. The main difference is, with Abby Z high-impact, daredevil choreography, neither you nor the dancers get a chance to chill. So, again, those mirror neurons.... Add occasional blasts from the electronic, industrial hip hop band Death Grips. The evening wrapped up with DCDC's excerpt from Donald Byrd's The Geography of the Cotton Field (2014) which paints, with an elegant hand, a canvas at once sweepingly abstract and epically specific.

DCDC performers: Devin Baker, Qarrianne Blayr (Associate Artistic Director), Breanna Dorsey, Alexandria Flewellen, Michael Green, Steve Lamblin, Robert Pulido, Elizabeth Ramsey, Nile Alicia Ruff, Nabachwa Ssensalo (Actress), Quentin Apollovaughn Sledge, Matthew J. Talley, Countess V. Winfrey

One show remains--this Sunday at 7:30pm--but tickets are sold out.

175 Eighth Avenue at West 19th Street, Manhattan

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

InfiniteBody Honor Roll 2019

Eva Yaa Asantewaa
InfiniteBody Honor Roll 2019


Top: Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith in Queen & Slim
(Photo: Universal Pictures)
Bottom: Germaine Acogny in SOMEWHERE AT THE BEGINNING
(photo: Thomas Dorn)

Yes, it premiered on HBO in 2018 but, for me, My Brilliant Friend straddled those transitional days between the last gasps of December and New Year's Day when I breathlessly reached the finale of Season 1. Oh, how I love this brilliant series--as eager for Season 2 as "Lenú" is for "Lila."

Left, Gaia Gerace (as Rafaella "Lila" Cerullo)
with Margherita Mazzucco (Elena Greco),
who play the teenage leads in HBO's My Brilliant Friend
(photo courtesy of HBO)

Soon into the new year came Jane Gabriel's annual Pepatián Bronx Showcase and Conversation, this time with curation by artists Beatrice Capote and Maleek Washington. Gabriels has been producing this now for nine years. This was my second year attending, and I was even more impressed than last year. So, when the 10th anniversary comes around, you're finally going, right? Noted highlights of 2019 included works by Kayla Farrish (Decent Structures Arts), Matthew Perez and Cain A. Coleman (ColemanCollective) and Anya Clarke and Mitsuko Verdery (MICHIYAYA Dance).

I've got to acknowledge it even though I curated it: Ame-Ricana by Italy Bianca Welton at Gibney, January 10. Sorry, folx. The woman deserves the praise.

Okay, now onto the regular listings....

This Bridge Called My Ass by Miguel Gutierrez at The Chocolate Factory, January 9-19

Battle! Hip-Hop in Armor by It's Showtime NYC! at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, January 11 and other dates

Soprano Julia Bullock
(photo: Kevin Yatarola)

Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine by Julia Bullock at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, January 17-18

Bronxed at Food for Thought at Danspace Project, featuring works by Arthur Aviles, Alethea Pace, Matthew Perez/ColemanCollective and Richard Rivera/PHYSUAL, January 25

Amanda Seales
(photo: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/Getty Images)

Amanda Seales: I Be Knowin' (HBO), released January 26


Hair & Other Stories by Chanon Judson and Samantha Speis in collaboration with Urban Bush Women, January 31-February 9

Maleek Washington and Timothy Edwards
in Camille A. Brown's ink
(photo: Christopher Duggan)

ink by Camille A. Brown & Dancers at The Joyce Theater, February 5

Rambler, Worlds Worlds A Part by Kathy Westwater at New York Live Arts, February 14-16

Adaku's Revolt by Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born at Abrons Arts Center, March 14-24

United Skates (film), directed by Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler, released November 20, 2018

El Viaje by Edwaard Liang for Ballet Hispánico at The Joyce Theater, March 26-31

Entre Tú Y Yo by Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca at Connelly Theater, March 8-31

Sila Djiguba: The Crossroad by Les Ballet Afrik, Gibney, April 4-6


Fuck/Love: The Poetics of Adorationby Kelly Bartnik
(photo: Maria Baranova-Suzuki)

Fuck/Love: The Poetics of Adoration by Kelly Bartnik, Gibney, April 11-13

A Shared Evening of New Work by Tendayi Kuumba and Samita Sinha at Danspace Project, April 25 and April 27

Messages from Umi (work-in-progress) by Long Arms at Harlem Stage, May 2-4

EMERGE with works by Bobbi Jene Smith, Chanel DaSilva and Micaela Taylor for Gibney Dance Company at Gibney, May 2-4

Distance is Malleable, the 2018-2019 Soshitsu Sen XV Distinguished Lecture by Eiko Otake, Miller Theatre, Columbia University, May 10

Radioactive Practice (work-in-progress showing) by Abby Z and the New Utility, New York Live Arts, May 17

Surveys the Prairie of Your Room by Witness Relocation/Dan Safer at La MaMa, May 18-19

Wanda Sykes: Not Normal by Wanda Sykes, released on Netflix, May 21

Performance by Linda LaBeija in La MaMa's Squirts: Generations of Queer Performance at La MaMa, May 31-June 2

The Dances Are For Us by Hadar Ahuvia at Danspace Project, May 30-June 1

Ava DuVernay's When They See Us
(photo: Netflix)

When They See Us, directed by Ava DuVernay, released on Netflix on May 31

Pose, created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals, launched on FX June 3, 2018; ongoing on FX and Netflix

Significant Others: Dances for Family, Friends & Lovers by Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion at Gibney, June 13-15

Dead to Me, created by Liz Feldman, on Netflix, launched on May 3; ongoing

We're Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time by David Cale at The Public Theater, June 13-July 14




Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, released to theaters June 21

Marc Maron: Too Real by Marc Maron (Netflix, 2017)

They Ready: Tracey Ashley, presented by Tiffany Haddish, on Netflix, launched August

Black Rock Coalition: The History of Our Future, MetLiveArts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 7

The Amazing Adventures of Grace May B. Brown by Souloworks/Andrea E. Woods & Dancers, Gibney, September 12-14

Unbelievable (miniseries), created by Susannah Grant, Ayalet Waldman and Michael Chabon, Netflix, released September 13, 2019


Ayodele Casel
(photo: Michael Higgins)

Ayodele Casel + Arturo O'Farrill at The Joyce Theater, September 24-29

SOMEWHERE AT THE BEGINNING by Germaine Acogny and Mikäel Serre, La MaMa Ellen Stewart Theatre, September 26-28

(re)Source by Maria Bauman-Morales/MBDance at BAAD!, September 25-28

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf
at The Public Theater
(photo: Joan Marcus)

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf (choreography by Camille A. Brown) at The Public Theater, opened October 8.

Maya Beiser in THE DAY at The Joyce, October 22-27

Other Animal by Sam Kim at Danspace Project, October 31-November 2

5 St. Fifperhanway Place by Stefanie Batten Bland, performed by Gibney Dance Company at Gibney, November 14-16

Forming Out by Peter Chu, performed by Gibney Dance Company at Gibney, November 14-16

Colin Dunne in Concert
(photo: Whitney Browne)

Concert by Colin Dunne at Baryshnikov Arts Center, November 14-16

Queen & Slim, directed by Melina Matsoukas, written by Lena Waithe (Universal Pictures), released November 27

And Still You Must Swing by Dormeshia at The Joyce Theater, December 3-8

Kaalo Jol by Samita Sinha at Gibney, December 5-7

topologies by Jennifer Harrison Newman at Gibney, December 12-14

GETTING CLOSER TO CORAL by Alexander Diaz at Gibney, December 12-14

FRESH TRACKS: Anh Vo, Annie Heath, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, Kayla Hamilton, Stuart B Meyers at New York Live Arts, December 13-14

Deep Out Agents by Hyung Seok Jeon at Gibney, December 19-21

We Wield by Lauren Atwell at Gibney, December 19-21

City of Rain (Camille A. Brown) and Busk (Aszure Barton) performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center, December 20

The Great Hall Commission: Kent Monkman: mistikôsiwak: Wooden Boat People at Metropolitan Museum of Art, December 19-April 9, 2020

Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig, released December 25

The Nutcracker Suite by Dorrance Dance at The Joyce, December 17-January 5

The Last Black Man in San Francisco, directed by Joe Talbot, released June 7


Okay, that's my honor roll for 2019! 
What's on yours?


--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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Dorrance Dance: The Joyce does it again!

Josette Wiggan-Freund
plays Clara's Mother and Sugar Rum Cherry
in The Nutcracker Suite.
(photo: Matthew Murphy)

Dorrance Dance
The Joyce Theater
December 17-January 5

The Joyce closes out the 20-Teens with another tap triumph--this time, a three-week run by Dorrance Dance, the superb troupe headed by 2015 MacArthur Fellow Michelle Dorrance. Dorrance has been showing three separate programs, each crowned--I can find no better word for it--by the world premiere of The Nutcracker Suite, set to the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn arrangement of Tchaikovsky and designed like you've never seen it before.

The actual title--as rendered in the program notes, if not on the Joyce's website--is as follows:

WE PRESENT TO YOU: THE NUTCRACKER SUITE OR, A RHYTHMATURGICAL EVOCATION OF THE SUPER-LEVIATHONIC ENCHANTMENTS OF DUKE AND BILLY'S SUPREME ADAPTATION OF TCHAIKOVSKY'S MASTERPIECE THAT TELLS A TALE OF A MISUNDERSTOOD GIRL WHO KILLS A KING AND MEETS A QUEEN AND DON'T FORGET OOOO-GONG-CHI-GONG-SH'-GON-MAKE-IT-DADDY AND THAT IT AIN'T SO BAD AFTER ALL

Okay?

But we'll certainly call it The Nutcracker Suite for short.

In the program I saw (B), it followed the cool and spacious Elastic Time, also a world premiere, by the company's Associate Artistic Director, Nicholas Van Young, who is also a drummer, with sections of improvisation by the dancers and wonderful live music. Elastic Time and The Nutcracker Suite are like night and day. The first: abstract, rhythmically complex and transparent so that you marvel at the spare, dynamic architecture of its design and zoom in on its dancers' clean technical abilities, with Warren Craft bringing spunk and playfulness to an exciting tap suite that feels, nevertheless, to avoid the element of swing. The second: all swing all the time, winkingly queer, drenched in and bursting with color (lighting by Kathy Kaufmann, costumes by Andrew Jordan, scenic design by Christopher Marc--all of whom, like Dorrance, should clear a shelf for awards).

Dorrance's jazzy charm offensive starts right off centering a jitterbug couple and proceeds to woo us with a pocket-watch-hypnosis chorus line and a trio of Sugar Rum Blossoms (Elizabeth Burke, Carson Murphy and Maddie Murphy, led by Sugar Rum Cherry Josette Wiggan-Freund) who evoke Harlem showgirls. With its mayhem (seriously brawling rats) and bustling merriment (Russian trepak dance with some b-girl moves from Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie), this Nutcracker is non-stop, over-the-top entertainment giving good value for the price of your ticket.

Dorrance has the skillz. See this show, and you'll see why she could (and should, if desired) follow Camille A. Brown to Broadway. You will love The Nutcracker Suite, and you'll want to see it again and again. May this show become an annual tradition. Make it so, you geniuses at Dorrance Dance and The Joyce. Make it so.

Dorrance Dance continues through Sunday, January 5. For program and schedule information and ticketing, click here.

175 Eighth Avenue at West 19th Street, Manhattan

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Winter's treasures: New York's Ailey troupe at City Center

Khalia Campbell
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
(photo: Andrew Eccles)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
New York City Center
December 4-January 5

Each December, with the last leaves falling and the first hint of winter, we come to expect our beloved Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to spread warmth at City Center with its numerous and varied productions. This year, I've kept things simple and opted for a single indulgence from the Ailey abundance--one evening including a world premiere by Donald Byrd, company premieres by Camille A. Brown and Aszure Barton, and a new production of Lar Lubovitch's 1990 duet, Fandango, first presented by Ailey in 1995.

That duet, set to Maurice Ravel's Bólero, depends on a nearly endless stream of partnering exploits and maneuvers that lock its lovers together like shapeshifting puzzle pieces. Knowing Bólero as well as most of us do, it's hard to not wonder, as you see and tick off the various grapplings, how the dancers will work with the next cycle of Ravel's intensifying music. But Danica Paulos and Clifton Brown, the pair I saw last evening, brought exactitude and crisp dynamism--in the case of Paulos, flashes of authentic human joy--to even the most toy-like moves. Here, you really can tell the dancer from the dance, and that makes a difference.

Byrd's Greenwood takes a Rashomon-style approach to the mystery behind an incident that touched off the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in which white Oklahomans rioted, unleashing widespread death and destruction in a prosperous Black district known as the "Black Wall Street." What actually happened, or did not happen, when a Black, 19-year old man encountered a 17-year-old white female elevator operator in her elevator? Byrd displays different scenarios--one, perfectly neutral; one, romantically sensual; one, crude and violent--within a mist-filled, dream-like atmosphere wonderfully lit by Jack Mehler, haunted by figures out of the Tulsa past who enter and slip away from the scenes as if drifting through a narrow space between slightly-parted elevator doors. In this stagecraft, dancers resemble pieces on a board game--mostly static, set in place for family photo portraits or rigidly deployed here or there as if by forces beyond their control. The piece works as a visual expression of a story idea, one with continued relevance in today's climate that tolerates and even encourages open expression of racism. (Audience members have been issued a booklet with a brief history of the Greenwood land and aircraft attack--a shameful history largely absent from US history books--and a helpful suggestion of questions Byrd's dance might raise.) However, Greenwood, in its movement and its storytelling approach, looks much closer to dances within the traditional Ailey comfort zone than anything else on this evening's program.

Aside from the Lubovitch duet, if you relish seeing this company step to and possibly master a challenge--and always I do--you need works like Brown's City of Rain (2010) and Barton's Busk (2009). Both are big ensemble pieces by dancemakers influenced by contemporary culture and confident in their ability to activate and wrangle a roomy stage. That both choreographers are women--and ones with accelerating renown on the world stage--is a gold star for Ailey.

The visual atmosphere of Brown's piece, a memorial to a friend who died from a paralyzing disease, hangs bleak and heavy, but you notice that the weight of this clouded sky holds no power over her dancers. Bodies cave in and are wrenched in every direction, but they are also liquid fire from within seeking every outlet for life and expression. Barton, too, evokes the indomitable human spirit in Busk, opening with a single, hooded, white-gloved street performer whose talents blend the disciplines of dance, mime, clowning and acrobatics then expanding to a chorus of the same whose driven, tribal togetherness ranges in mood from devotional to nearly combative.

The Ailey audience on Friday night looked to be same as it ever was-- typical in its racial, class and age demographics. And yet these fans greeted the contemporary works of Brown and Barton with roars of love and loyalty which did my heart good. Yes, the company moves on, and yes, it still is Ailey, now and forever.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues at City Center through January 4. For scheduling information and tickets, click here.

New York City Center
131 West 55th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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Sunday, December 15, 2019

The circus comes to town: Cirque Mechanics at New Victory

Battulga Battogtokh of Cirque Mechanics
in 42 Ft.--A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels

42 Ft.--A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels
by Cirque Mechanics
The New Victory Theater
December 6-January 5

Hailing from Las Vegas, Chris Lashua and Aloysia Gavre's Cirque Mechanics troupe has arrived at our city's family-friendly New Victory Theater with a production called 42 Ft.--A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels. (The measurement refers to the standard diameter of a circus ring.) Retrograde and wholesome, the show is a modest affair though, at nearly two hours with intermission, it might stretch beyond what most young kids would happily sit through, even some adults. Despite my own occasional squirming, I was charmed through most of the show and re-energized by fright at some of the dexterous aerial and slack wire work.

Impersonating a 1930s touring group named Circus Magnificus, the company eliminates the frills we might have come to expect from contemporary circus and just goes for feel-good basics, all the old-school sights and nostalgic sounds, but not without imagination. One of my favorite acts involved Tatiana Vasilenko dreamily juggling numerous balls while perched atop a wheeled chariot slowly "drawn" around the stage by a fetching cut-out horse--just one, and certainly the most benign, of the mechanical apparatuses alluded to the show's title and the company's name and reputation.

Justin Therrien combines low-key demeanor with exquisite physical skill as a wandering clown the troupe will eventually adopt. Mongolian strongman Battulga Battogtokh makes a believer out of the toughest skeptic when he handles weighty props with gusto and unexpected grace. There's even a lion tamer of sorts, though, in the blessed absence of trained animals, we must imagine a lion we will never see while Austin Bradley takes center stage, flourishing a stool and bullwhip. The show's only Black performer, Bradley otherwise has a minor presence in the lineup of acts. I was jarred by the crack of the bullwhip and the sight of it snapping and wrapping around his own body.

42 Ft.: A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels is recommended for ages 5 and up and continues through January 5 on a diverse time schedule. For information and tickets, click here.

The New Victory Theater
209 West 42nd Street (Times Square), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Tracks get fresher: bold new moves at New York Live Arts

FRESH TRACKS artists, left to right:
Anh Vo, Annie Heath, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd,
Kayla Hamilton and Stuart B Meyers

FRESH TRACKS: Anh Vo, Annie Heath, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, Kayla Hamilton, Stuart B Meyers
New York Live Arts
December 13-14

I came away from last night's edition of FRESH TRACKS--New York Live Arts' showcase for rising choreographers--eager to see each of the five pieces separately, with ample contemplative, processing time and space around each. But, of course, an omnibus program like this--squeezing in five 15-minute works, diverse in maker and nature--does not allow for that. You might take a restroom break during intermission and look around at other audience members on the line, each of them exclaiming variations on "Whew!" Other than that, you better keep pace. Simply put, this particular FRESH TRACKS lineup can be overwhelming--in a good way. Presentations by Anh Vo, Annie Heath, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, Kayla Hamilton and Stuart B Meyers made me hopeful for the future of dance in New York City, exemplifying the bold, urgent spirit of the art today.

Kayla Hamilton, first up, is an artist you should already know. But if you don't, take this opportunity. Nearly Sighted/unearthing the dark, created with a community of makers, sasses back at the male gaze, the terrified Karens of this world and anyone who might want to voice unsolicited opinions about a fat Black woman's body. With its quirky lighting cues and accessibility accommodations--including a riveting ASL interpreter/dancer, Brandon Kazen-Maddox--it also messes with the usual centering of non-disabled viewers and points of view.  I love it to pieces.

Informed by German Expressionist film, Stuart B MeyersKOPFKINO (head cinema) enhances its eerie scenario with dim, blueish lighting that strips its dancers--Meyers and Isabel Umali--of healthy skintones and readable, relatable facial features. Aside from its extraordinary visual aesthetics, the piece gets hair-raising power from a combination of slow, creeping movement and frozen tension in the bodies. A nightmare from the past but made for our nightmarish times.

Anh Vo's BABYLIFT--the title memorializes a tragedy of the Vietnam War, the crash of the first plane to airlift evacuated South Vietnamese orphans--is the boldest of the bold and would reward repeated viewings. The subversive quality of Vo's slithery femme, hypersexualized self-presentation in front of a carefully-arranged votive altar would seem to clash with the projected photo of a Buddhist monk immolating himself as fellow monks look on. When I later had a moment to think it through, I realized these two figures might agree that the body is the fiercest site of resistance.

Annie Heath and Sokunthary Svay--a Khmer refugee and now Bronx-based poet and librettist--often occupy different, primarily diametrically opposed areas of the stage in an excerpt from Heath's This Mother/land Fabric. This keeps you wondering about how they are related, how their thoughts and ways are related, as you gaze from one to the other. Careful, expert gestures of wrapping a sarong contrast with desperate, helpless ones such as lifting a heavy pile of folded clothes, trying to secure this bundle high against the back wall with nothing but one's tired arms. Heath struggles and struggles; Svay's words leave a chill: "my mouth is magically sewn together" and "to find a soft landing spot, leave your skin on the ground" and "let me nurture this brutality."

In his witty abstract ensemble, Neighbors, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd keeps five dancers moving like game pieces continually rearranged in dynamic spacial interrelationship. Coming at the end of a demanding evening, Neighbors both clears the palate and looks like a kind of work easily picked up by major troupe looking for bright new repertory. Which is to say, hooray for Lloyd. Watch this guy. But, really, keep track of everyone here.

FRESH TRACKS: Anh Vo, Annie Heath, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, Kayla Hamilton, Stuart B Meyers concludes with tonight's 7:30pm performance. For tickets, click here.

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

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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