Thursday, January 7, 2016

Donna Uchizono's "Sticky Majesty" premieres at Gibney

Molly Lieber and Heather Olson dance in Sticky Majesty
at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center.
(photo: Scott Shaw)

Last night at Gibney Dance, as we waited for her show to begin, choreographer Donna Uchizono quietly, sweetly sidled up to members of her audience and dropped little bits of instruction. Something about a "forest view" and a "desert view."

Why can't she show up before every dance show, everywhere, not just her own? I, for one, would be delighted to see her.

And since Sticky Majesty--the new work from Donna Uchizono and the Professionals--splits its space, its cast of performers, its audience and its audience's visual focus, you might appreciate a little direction going in.

But here's what she does not tell you--at least, not while you're waiting for the dancing:
Sticky Majesty was conceived from the uneasy intimacy of one-on-one, invited tea-time conversations between Donna Uchizono and a spectrum of individuals with diverging socio-political views. The choreography and seating arrangement structured at angles means no one vantage point can claim an authoritative view of the dance. 
Sticky Majesty might have been sourced in those "uneasy" teas, but it strikes me as turning out to be more about consciousness than politics--at least, overtly. Maybe Uchizono is going where we need to go before we even get to politics. All I know is that the result is a big, saturated and really stunning work of weirdness--as wayward to our human eyes and, paradoxically, as tightly organized in its own way as a deep forest landscape.

Dancers Molly Lieber and Heather Olson were assigned to the side of the audience I inhabited, the "forest view," and they were marvelous to see, with movement so stark and dry and nonsensical and sometimes tense that I could squint at it and imagine tangled branches and twigs going every which way and mossed-over logs tumbled across the understory.

Their shifting within their corridor of space gave me a sometimes better, sometimes worse, sometimes frustrating, sometimes illuminating vantage point on Hadar Ahuvia, Sarah Iguchi and Meg Weeks moving in the space beyond. Barefoot and wearing sand-colored tulle like bridal veils, these three commanded their floor, mainly oriented towards the other half of the audience ("desert view"). They spent a scarily high percentage of their time dancing sur les demi-pointes, the minute movements of their indomitable, arched feet somehow making me perceive grains of sand--many, many, many of them.

The work stretches on for seventy minutes or so--which, as a matter of practicality, feels excessive. But Uchizono and collaborators David Shively (music) and Natalie Robin (lighting) have tossed practicality aside in favor of something that not only challenges your visual perspective but lights up your nervous system. And Michael Grimaldi's visual design makes quite fascinating and lovely use of the Gibney theater's little forest of columns.

Sticky Majesty continues through Saturday, January 16. For tickets and complete information (including special deals and onsite childcare reservations) click here.

280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan

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