Friday, March 20, 2015

Rebecca Serrell Cyr premieres "Assemblage" at JACK

Alex Escalante and Rebecca Serrell Cyr in Assemblage
(photo: Ed Forti Photography)

How much is too much? Who cares!

I'm captivated by the excess in Rebecca Serrell Cyr's Assemblage, her first evening-length work, running now at JACK. I don't need to know why we've each been issued a marginally useless flashlight the size of a quarter and have to hand it back before the show begins--although, as the pre-show lighting is dim, it kind of makes sense for program reading, and the tiny brights look sweet, like something I'd get at the circus and ice shows at Madison Square Garden when I was a kid and every bit as lasting. I don't absolutely need to know why a plywood model house, erected atop a folding tray, gets stripped of its toy inhabitants, disassembled and carted off, floor by floor, before the dance begins--although I might like to know. Then Alex Escalante, embarking in darkness, noisily collapses onto a sheet of Mylar, one of a few stations set up across a floor strewn with apparently random discards. Sure thing.

On the soundtrack, Ravel, master of the out of bounds. Escalante rolling over Cyr's body as fog belches a few times from a sluggish fog machine. Bodies used for resistance and as bracing assistance in half-acrobatic moves. Hurried costume changes. Aretha Aoki emerging from a pile of stuff. The terrain of scrunched up tissue paper, plastic, Mylar, fabric, a fat empty bottle for water. Coffee cups and dervish spins and long skirts that swirl and swordplay with invisible swords and wafting bubbles and pom poms and branches entangled like antlers in a struggle for dominance. The movement lush, the movement heated with the dial forced ever higher in a heck yeah, go-for-it recklessness. And then, the tidying up. Every scrap meticulously cleared away, while we watch, as if what happened never happened but, of course, we watched it happen.

I fell in love with this. And then Cyr hit me with the Bob Ross voiceover and the pliant, heroic dancing of Eleanor Hullihan, a wealth seemingly limitless in its source.

Now, the late Bob Ross is known to me only by reputation--that and a funny Facebook meme about turning mistakes into birds, one of the least offensive Bob Ross memes out there. (The Internet is a cesspool. Avoid it at all cost.) Cyr uses sound--Ross's clear, soothing voice and scratchy brush strokes--from an episode of the PBS instructional series, The Joy of Painting. Which I had never watched. To my regret now. Because.

A few sample quotes from the Ross instructional:
Just this mountain flows right off the knife.

All we want is a nice outside edge. We couldn't really care what's happening on the inside now.

This is your world. let your imagination take you where you want to go.

Just want this mountain to softly, softly disappear...happy little mountains way back in the distance.

It's your projection. You can put it anywhere you want it.
Bend the bristles. Make that brush work for you.
Cyr, lauded for her work as an instrument for other dancemakers, knows she cannot completely discard all that she has absorbed from the outside. Assemblage makes much of accumulation, disguise, dismantling--ah, hah! that model house!--permission, exuberance and mastery. It looks like an artist statement in motion--perpetual motion and perpetual flux. It is rich, deep, thoughtfully accomplished and tickles the hell out of me.

Assemblage continues through Saturday with performances at 8pm. For all information and tickets, click here.

505 1/2 Waverly Avenue (between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue), Brooklyn

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