Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Dining" with Rosie Herrera...and Bausch

Making up my mind about Rosie Herrera--who offered the New York premiere of Dining Alone this week at Baryshnikov Arts Center--turns out to be a work in progress. This morning, I'm still at it. Welcome to my process.

Herrera is shrewd enough to color a corner of her ensemble piece with a jazz instrumental of the Jimi Hendrix's slow-simmering "Hey Joe"--sounds like Robert Glasper at the piano, but I'm not sure--so that it slips a hook into you, warmly percolating, just a sliver above subliminal. There's a moment of "Oh, wait...I know that song." Then you remember the disturbing lyrics of the original tune ("...where you goin' with that gun in your hand? I'm goin' down to shoot my old lady, you know I caught her messin' 'round with another man...."). Well played. There are other smart, fresh moves in Dining Alone--for one, its opening gambit places the suave Octavio Campos, steadily if inaudibly holding forth, at the head of a long dining table lined by cardboard-cutouts guests--but I'm not sure it's all quite enough.

Herrera hails from what she calls the "Cuban ghetto" of Hialeah in Miami. For her vivid dance theater in Dining Alone, she chooses to mine that world and popular culture for its passionate preoccupations and cheesy excesses. Love seems a delicious danger, a delirious indulgence and a fundamental necessity all at once. No narrow, post-modern bed, this: It's roomy. Straight-up Rachmaninoff and Eric Carmen's power-ballad changes on Rachmaninoff are both welcome, because Herrera's got to keep slipping you that one something more. Of course. White dinner plates, when not creating transitory pathways for moonstruck sonamubulists, spin on edge and clatter, clatter, clatter to novel visual and aural effect. The episodic Dining Alone "reads" like magical realism, like a fever dream amid bouts of red-eyed tossing and turning.

And I like this about it. I just wish the ghost of Pina Bausch would lift away and leave Herrera to devise her own ways of doing things. I'm looking at Dining Alone and thinking way too much about Bausch: Would or wouldn't Pina do this or that? And, if so, would she do it in this way? So, after watching Dining Alone, I was startled to pick up a Dance Magazine profile in which Herrera described herself as follows: "If Pina Bausch and Michael Jackson had had a baby...."

Okay, one thing I know: I'm eager to see Herrera step out and test the strengths of her own vision, push the choreographic and visual design elements much further.

With performances by Campos, Ivonne Batanero, Leah Verier-Dunn, Liony Garcia, Katie Stirman, Raymond Storms, Melissa Toogood and Fernando Landeros. Lighting by David Ferri.

Closed April 19.

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