Saturday, October 12, 2013

Shared space: Rebecca Davis and taisha paggett at Danspace Project

Every form of dance--no matter its purpose--presses into service the large and small mechanisms of the human body. A wonderful machine, and certainly much more than that. Choreographers Rebecca Davis and taisha paggett--now sharing a season at Danspace Project--both bring that machinery to the foreground.

Davis's quartet, will however happen, opens with two women posed on all fours, side by side, with their heads and cascading tresses hung low over the floor. In time, they retract their heads in perfect start-stop motion and make hydaulic sounds like backhoes or other equipment. It's startling, but not nearly as startling as dancer Erin Cairns Cella's ability to rapidly crawl around the space belly-up with her delicate-looking hands directing and propelling her--which looks tough on those wrists. For her part, Carolyn Hall might remind you of the agitator of a washing machine as she turns with one fist raised, the other arm resting atop her head. Existing in some hazy space between object and humanity, these performers disturb the expectations of their viewers.

paggett's quartet, a right-angled object who lost her faith in being upright--tantalizing title, that--features herself and others skittering around like identical wound-up toys. Their costumes, which otherwise resemble a kind of chaste sleepwear, include white earphones and clear plastic capelets. The protective capelets, that little detail--like the way paggett opens proceedings by ringing a triangle--fits the M.O. of this artist as a highly creative scavenger.

Davis's collaborating dancers (who also include Lydia Christman and Kay Ottinger) give admirable physical performances in will however happen. paggett with her crew (Rebecca Bruno, Willy Souly and Anna Martine Whitehead), though, took me the extra mile.

There's the realization that this artist is capable of taking anything she can get her hands on--object, person, space, idea--and turning it into something else, simply because she can. A clear sense of agency, of knowing her own mind. That hits hard, and that makes paggett someone who will be interesting to continue to watch as she develops.

But what really sealed the deal for me came late in the piece. The performing body becomes not just an abstract idea at a distance but something, with all of its weight and sweat and vulnerability, that depends upon you. A wonderful machine, and certainly much more than that.

See the final evening of works by Rebecca Davis and taisha paggett tonight at 8pm at Danspace Project. Click here for information and tickets.


taisha paggett
(photo to Taka Yamamoto)
Be sure to read Jaime Shearn Coan's June 2013 interview with taisha paggett in my sister blog, Dancer's Turn.

Danspace Project
131 East 10th Street (corner Second Avenue), Manhattan

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