Friday, June 7, 2013

In the fog with "Vulture-Wally"

Dance artist Jillian Sweeney and director/writer Jeffrey Cranor strike just the right balance between earnest mysteriousness and kickass satire in their new work, Vulture-Wally, a presentation of Incubator Arts Project's New Performance Series at St. Mark's Church. As described by Sweeney, the 65-minute, immersive Vulture-Wally
uses spoken word, song, and dialog to create a long-form poem about who owns our bodies and who authors our stories. Based on the 19th century Austrian Alps folk novel Geier-Wally, the dance dissects the melodramatic hero(ine) by examining individual body parts and pairing the movement with deconstructed classic film scores.
Set in IAP's small, black box theater--upstairs from the more familiar Danspace Project home in the church's sanctuary--the work unfolds in a dimly-lit space engulfed in artificial fog.* Faint lines of light often demarcate areas of new action, guiding the circulating audience members to position themselves out of the way of developing scenes. People sometimes perch on risers that extend across one wall but, now and again, watchers have to make way for dancers.

In fact, Vulture-Wally opens with Sweeney's dancers--Siobhan Burke, Lydia Chrisman and Tara Willis--dramatically gesturing as they tread back and forth, in strained and grave slow motion, across those risers in the mist and Vincent Vigilante's filtered light. Vaguely romantic music plays faintly in the background. Sweeney, moving even more sparingly, occupies a separate box of light in a corner of the theater, and we must deliberately lose sight of the severe trio to turn around and catch up on whatever she's doing. The "chapters" of the piece unfold a story of either conforming to authority or striking off on one's own. Hell is indeed other people who wield cosmetic brushes or singalong hymns.

Cranor's clever text and the excellent performance by Sweeney and company make a worthwhile event of this smart, accomplished work.

*One important note of caution: If you have respiratory allergies, a cold or asthma, the ever-present fog might prove challenging. It's not the same as watching fake fog billow across the stage of a big theater at the normal, safer remove. You're all up in it for a full hour. I'm still struggling this morning with congested nasal passages and a severely irritated throat. For information on adverse health effects of fog or smoke machines, see here.

Vulture-Wally continues this evening through Sunday with performances at 8pm. For tickets, click here.

Incubator Arts Project
St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street at Second Avenue, 2nd Floor, Manhattan

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