Friday, December 13, 2013

This weekend: Cori Olinghouse's "Ghost lines"

Cori Olinghouse in Ghost lines
(photo by Andy Jordan)

Film is a ghostly art--the old silents, perhaps, the ghostliest of all, though all movies preserve traces of long-departed starlight. Cori Olinghouse's Ghost lines, a film/dance production running now at Danspace Project, raises the ectoplasm of entertainers like Buster Keaton, Snake Hips Tucker, the British eccentric comic Max Wall, all known for matchless physical signatures. It also draws from the extravagance of more contemporary clowns, specialty dancers and anime characters.

The hour-long piece is a phantasmagoric shadow play in two parts. The first fifteen minutes present a luminous, masterful film collaboration by Shona Masarin and Olinghouse where the choreographer performs a silent film-style act. Layers of cracks, blurs and sparkles make the images of her surreal and ever-receding. After a pause, the work continues with live dancing, including the performance, by Bessie Award-winning tap artist Michelle Dorrance, of a flashy Hal Le Roy solo from 1931 that she reconstructed. You can enjoy the sensational original here.

There's magical illusion in the way Olinghouse stacks and fans out her dancing characters like cards from a deck of poignant oddballs, how designer Andrew Jordan conceals their faces or costumes them in distracting fabrics and shapes (which makes me think of the pants legs excitingly whipping away from Le Roy's thin limbs in that movie clip), how Kathy Kaufmann's lighting moves snatch away from us, for moments, the power of sight and then restore it. Now you see it. Now you don't. And what you see has been carefully constructed for your transitory delight. Beneath one white-smeared face is someone we will never know. And like the veiled, black-clad Eva Schmidt on her hiked-up feet, the work picks up its heels and trips away.

With dancing by Cori Olinghouse, Eva Schmidt, Michelle Dorrance, Elizabeth Keen and Mina Nishimura

Ghost lines continues through Saturday evening with performances at 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.

131 East 10th Street (at 2nd Avenue), Manhattan

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