Friday, March 15, 2013

"Interface" -- Rashaun Mitchell puts a face to that emotion

The cast of Interface: l-r, Silas Riener, Cori Kresge, Rashaun Mitchell and Melissa Toogood (Photo by Stephanie Berger)
I was pretty sure I didn't need to see dancers behaving like artists' posable mannequins--even fabulous, razor-sharp ones like choreographer Rashaun Mitchell and his colleagues, Silas Riener, Melissa Toogood and Cori Kresge. I was fairly sure I'd seen this idea played out any number of times in dance. Thomas Arsenault (Mas Ysa)'s music for Mitchell's quartet Interface--given its world premiere last night at Baryshnikov Arts Center--sounded like the protracted, labored breathing of an android. Then, suddenly, dancers' tongues began to press hard against the inside of their cheeks. Later, crude expressions would bulge out the skin of formerly placid faces from Cunningham-land, distorting the message of their bodies' clean assertions. Interesting.
Interface at Baryshnikov Arts Center (Photo by Stephanie Berger)
This happened within and around a large, white square of empty space and within the Howard Gilman Performance Space that, famously, looks out on the the lights and architecture of Hudson Yards, the theater's generous windows now interspersed with striking visual designs in black and white. (Of the four performers, only Riener--his usually lush, dark hair here tamed into a tight topknot--breaks the monochrome by wearing a childish-looking yellow romper.) Some of those windows come alive by video, so that movement may happen by chance--say, a passing jet streaking across the sky--or by design.

For me, this integration of handsome urban vista with an innerscape arranged by Mitchell and his collaborators proved more enchanting than the dance alone might have been.

Black/white, inside/outside, mechanical/animal, constrained and not so constrained, functional and (perhaps) not so functional, apart and together: Interface exists in a dynamic state of between, of flux, of uncomfortable becoming. Which is Mitchell's condition as a burgeoning dancemaker suddenly set loose in the world, is it not?

With visual design by Fraser Taylor, Davison Scandrett and Mitchell; video by Nicholas O'Brien; lighting design by Scandrett; textiles and prints by Taylor; and costumes by Mary Jo Mecca

Rashaun Mitchell's Interface concludes with two performances tonight: 7:30pm and 9:30pm. Click here for details and tickets.

Baryshnikov Arts Center
450 West 37th Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues), Manhattan

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