Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dance Heginbotham at BAC

I like Dance Heginbotham very much--meaning that I respect John Heginbotham's new ensemble, take strong interest in how this promising troupe will grow, and tip my hat to the enormous effort and skill the dancers showed last night at Baryshnikov Arts Center. But that program--featuring the New York premiere of Closing Bell and the world premiere of Twin--simply wore me out!

In a way, these two works belong together because of similarities in movement texture. But the mechanistic, blistering nature of that texture (and, often, the music driving it) is tough to hang out with and absorb over time. Watching it feels like a solid hour of walking against gale-force wind. As my introduction to Heginbotham as choreographer, it leaves me hoping that the guy has other tricks up those roomy, rather bizarre mental sleeves of his.

Closing Bell's playful people, rising from discrete circles--I saw them as pods--of light, go through exacting, if cartoonish, paces with robotic intensity. The unsparing music (excerpts from Tyondai Braxton's Central Market) pumps them up, and Heginbotham--a Mark Morris alumnus among other things--is nothing if not musical to a sly and fastidious degree and fascinated by the precise mathematics of design. It's the folk dance of the pod people!

Fair enough, but I can watch dancers being deployed like an army of kooky wind-up toys only so much before my nerves start going on me. Twin, which shares some of that relentless energy, redeems itself with its gathering atmosphere of horror laced with absurdity. Heginbotham does both subtle, spooky menace and absurdity very well--yes, those "bizarre mental sleeves" of his--and his dancers get a chance to show off effective drama in interactions that allude to cinematic scenarios without being obvious. John Eirich--the only guy not wearing Maile Okamura's Op Art costumes, because he's wearing a diaphanous skirt instead--is a wonderful iconic figure of mystery and resonance. And Lindsey Jones has just the right whippet look and directness to be both exhilarating and slightly chilling to watch.

Dance Heginbotham--which also includes Allysen Hooks, BJ Randolph, Evan Teitelbaum and Kristen Foote--concludes its run with an 8pm performance tonight. Click here for information and tickets.

Baryshnikov Arts Center
Jerome Robbins Theater
450 West 37th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), Manhattan

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