Thursday, December 4, 2014

Escalante and Poerstel double up for DoublePlus

Alex Escalante in Venado (Deer Dance)
(photos: Paula Court)

Alex Escalante's demanding solo, Venado (Deer Dance), feels sourced not only in his experience dancing with a Mexican folkloric troupe and not only in the ceremonial dances of indigenous tribes. It locates Escalante in a tradition of morally-focused, heroic performance that I associate more with modern dance than avantgarde dance since the Judson era. In the stark, dark setting at the theater of Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, we watch this performer build from a quiet, humble entrance--circling the space while acknowledging each of us with an almost imperceptible smile and nod--to sculpted imagery suggesting trance states and hefty, majestic physicality. Jon Moniaci's very faint soundscape, which sounds like a crowd chanting in the far distance, gives a strange sense of temporal and even spatial depth to the experience of this dramatic offering.

Alex Escalante
below: Alice McDonald (left) and Mary Read
in Molly Poerstel's
Stolen Grounds (working title)
(photos: Paula Court)

Escalante shares a Gibney DoublePlus program this week with Molly Poerstel, both artists curated by award-winning dancemaker Donna Uchizono. Poerstel's new piece, Stolen Grounds (working title), might, in its own way, be as dramatic and demanding as Escalante's solo. It is a restive, driven duet for Alice McDonald and Mary Read in which the two women bound and churn through the roomy space, starting in near darkness, measured formalism grappling with chaos. If you happen to have a good angle on it, you will see the full lit image of a horse's head (artwork by Samuel Taylor) that looms behind one of the theater's columns; if not, you'll just notice an intriguing glow coming from that area. In either case, clearly this stolen ground is haunted ground.

Escalante and Poerstel continue tonight through Saturday with performances at 7:30pm. Friday's show will be followed by a Q&A with Donna Uchizono and the choreographers. For schedule information and tickets, click here.

Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis
Performing Arts Center
280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan

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