Friday, January 29, 2016

Shannon Gillen's Vim Vigor troupe premieres "Separati"

Shannon Gillen's Separati
(photos: Arnaud Falchier)

Separati enters the turbid psychic space of highway travel and anonymous companionship. Caught up at a midway point, five characters travel through the past, present and dark hallucinatory projections of the future. Stilled periods of waiting juxtapose wild physical bouts of surreal movement, as reality gives way to the imagination. What is the distance between where we have come from and where we want to go? Between what happens to us and who we are? Can the space between bodies and ideas ever be joined? And if not, can we exist in the middle ground of separation?
Separati--Shannon Gillen's hour of dance theater at Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center--left me winded and feeling pistol-whipped. I would have checked her Vim Vigor Dance Company for bruises and sprains, but I was too busy checking myself.

And its psychic space really is "turbid," as advertised. With its Edward Hopper lighting and its stark old phone booth isolated in the middle of nowhere, Separati strands its characters, and its watchers, in a nightmare between real life and the surreal. Unpredictable cacaphony--disembodied or channeled voices that taunt and mock; pop-up music, new and nostalgic; assortments of sounds--would be enough to make anyone want to claw her way back to wakefulness. But it's the choreography for the five characters--seemingly rootless travelers who hook up and entangle--that takes the greatest toll.

(photos: Arnaud Falchier)

Jason Cianciulli and Martin Durov portray two creepy men, endlessly controlling and abusive; Laja Field, Lavinia Vago and Emma Whiteley, the women caught in their magnetic force field. Separati might need to come with a trigger warning.

I'm not sure about Gillen's murky questions about "the space between bodies and ideas" and "can we exist in the middle ground of separation." All I can say is it would have been far better had these bodies, these human gyroscopes, never closed any separating gap. As hard to watch as it is, the action exerts punishing, diamond-making pressure on these performers, and they are absolutely there for that pressure.

Although Gillen herself boasts an extensive international career in performance and dancemaking, Vim Vigor is a young venture, just formed in 2015. Given the all-out dancing and acting on display in Separati--and Gillen's impressive direction--this troupe bears watching. Fortify yourself and go tonight or tomorrow at 7:30pm. For tickets, click here.

Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center
29 Jay Street (between John and Plymouth Streets), Brooklyn

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