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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Paloma McGregor builds her net...for us

Yesterday, I started thinking about how dance artists should market their genius for adaptability, for doing more with less. I've also been watching dance in fairly small spaces lately--not always a bad thing. Then Paloma McGregor brought Building A Better Fishtrap/Part 1 to BAAD!, premiering an evening-length version of work explored, over the last four years, in various venues. At BAAD!, this beautiful and moving ensemble piece is danced across a shallow strip of floor. It's a big burst of heart, and the dancers dance the hell out of it. If you sit in the front row, as I did, watch that your feet don't get trapped like fish.

McGregor, a native of St. Croix, draws spirit and imagery from, as she writes, "the vanishing fishing tradition of [her] 89-year old father." The work feels like a danced bedtime tale with dreamy happenings and archetypal, beloved characters who shapeshift form with ease. Indeed, like a cozy bedtime tale, it works best by leaving ample room for your own imaginings and feelings.

Empty chairs speak of separated or departed loved ones, the ever-present past. A "road" materializes when a young lady--bearing a modest, old-fashioned suitcase and a vision--strides forth while others hustle to pave the air with a row of chair seats continuously arranged below her advancing feet. As our loving storyteller, McGregor proffers not too much information, just enough--articles and spare gestures that suggest spearing, sorting, stirring; a wheel gently held aloft like a mystical symbol or used in the clever pantomiming of a family excursion; long spliced and braided cords that, when swept across the breadth of the space, evoke both the act of fishing and the foamy rush of Caribbean tide.

Now and again, a voice floats into the space, words suggesting identity and deep nourishment from which one can never be entirely separated. (I have been here before, maybe as a tree...The water is the Grand Queen of us all.) Still, dancers like Christine King and Audrey Hailes don't need words to connect when playful, girlish body language spins clear, universal "conversation" and inclusion.

That inclusion includes us, too, in a literal, ingenious and necessary way that I will not reveal here. Building A Better Fishtrap prepares and invites its audience, casting a spell that inspires trust. Last night, we fell into McGregor's welcome with gratitude.

Performances by Christine King, Audrey Hailes, Stephanie Mas, Erica Saucedo, Ricarrdo Valentine
Scenic Design: Paloma McGregor
Costumes: Kym Chambers
Lighting: Susan Hamburger
Soundscore: Everett Saunders
Text: Ebony Noelle Golden

Building A Better Fishtrap/Part 1 continues tonight at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. For information, click here, and for tickets, click here.

McGregor continues to build her fishtrap. Over the next two years, her Building A Better Fishtrap project moves on to BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange and to sites in Red Hook and along the Bronx River. "With each iteration," McGregor writes, "the hope is to deepen the connections collaborators and audiences have with one another's legacies and the future of our embattled water spaces." Keep up with McGregor's progress at Angela's Pulse.

2474 Westchester Avenue, Bronx

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