Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Liz Gerring brings "glacier" to the Joyce

Scenes from glacier
Liz Gerring Dance Company
(photos, above and below: Johanna Austin)

Presented without intermission, Liz Gerring's dance octet, glacier, gives the impression of being longer than its 65 minutes--alternately, a welcomed thing and, at times, a burden. But that strange elasticity reflects how the piece mirrors the fullness, diversity and adaptability of the natural world while remaining--like a watercolor painted in strokes of varying saturation--just abstract enough to tantalize.

What is going on here? Gerring's meticulous craft seduces with faint suggestion (ah! that looks somewhat familiar, but...), continuous metamorphosis and elusion. And the members of Liz Gerring Dance Company are exquisite in their performance for this Joyce Theater season.

Scene from glacier
Liz Gerring Dance Company
(photo: Julieta Cervantes)

Given its world premiere in 2013 at Peak Performances @ Montclair State, glacier has been slightly readjusted for the Joyce's stage. It looks fine, as if it had been made for the Joyce.

Robert Wierzel (set and lighting) suspends three cool white rectangular panels, like empty canvases, across the black expanse at the back of the stage. The floor also transmits a muted white. Both set off the sculpted gestures of Gerring's eight dancers whose movements alternately evoke vast space and intimacy, whose limbs suggest the odd stem here, the bent twig there, the fiddlehead of a fern. Michael Schumacher's electronic score, Glacier, captures, alters and layers sound from the woods and town around Colorado’s Glacier Lake with more conventional musical instrumentation. The sounds' origins remain nonspecific, delightful puzzles for the ear. A frog? A whistling duck? Fissuring ice? The stately procession of a ghost?

The soundscape can turn thrillingly harsh and agitated, with dancers rebounding and riding that energy while never looking forced, never violent. Most often, they let go and surrender--to gravity, to momentum. They inscribe curving, arching shapes where the eye does not expect to find them in everyday human posture or locomotion. This is a constant pleasure.

Gerring's odd-man-out, offbeat spatial flow and Schumacher's aural surprises don't tire the eye or mind--until moments when they do. That does happen, although I must admit any mental flagging and impatience on my part might have been due to the unusually chilly temperature in the Joyce on an unseasonably cool spring night. It made me wonder. Was that by design--you know, glacier and all?

glacier's closing, a disappearance by lighting effect, seems especially apt. A day of rich, sensory experience finally closes. Or more threatening: an entire landscape, a vital web of relationships, declines before our eyes.

Performers: Benjamin Asriel, Brandon Collwes, Tony Neidenbach, Adele Nickel, Brandin Steffensen, Jake Szczypek, Jessica Weiss and Claire Westby

glacier continues through April 2 with performances tomorrow (7:30pm) and Thursday (8pm). Following tomorrow's show, there will be a discussion with Gerring and dancers. For information and tickets, click here.

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (corner of 19th Street), Manhattan

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