Thursday, February 4, 2016

robbinschilds spells "Hex" at Gibney

Hex probes the complexities surrounding authorship, specifically how each collaborator influences the outcome of a day’s work, the building of material, and ultimately the finished composition. By exposing the cooperative agency in the construction of artistic vocabulary, Hex expands the notion of creator.
--from publicity for Hex 
Postmodern choreographers often pose questions or assign themselves challenges that seem mainly addressed to their peers. And just look around at who's sitting in the seats, supporting and grappling with the work--their peers. It's an inside job, a subset of the big, wide world of dance (even just that portion of it fighting for life in New York), a world in which values, philosophies, methods, needs and aspirations are quite diverse.

Portion of Hedia Maron's video for Hex
(photo: Scott Shaw)
Anna Azrieli (top) with Eleanor Smith in Hex
(photo: Scott Shaw)

The dancing in Hex--an hour-long video/live work by robbinschilds at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center--strikes me as a prime example of this situation. It's populated by interesting individual movers--Aretha AokiAnna AzrieliBessie McDonough-ThayerEleanor SmithMariana Valencia--overshadowed by premise and staging. Here, robbinschilds directors Sonya Robbins and Layla Childs yield authorship to these dancers as choreographers. The sixth maker--Vanessa Anspaugh--does not perform live in the piece.
We are committed to our cooperative practice as a means of subverting the archetypal 'male' trope of solo-creator. For this reason we see the process of collaboration not merely as a creative strategy, but also a feminist platform from which to cull a stronger collective vision.
--from "A short manifesto on Hex" by robbinschilds
The audience enters Gibney's Studio C to see four projection screens extended around the broad performance area, two of the screens divided to show two different scenes of the choreographers at work on solos that the ensemble will then take up as material to explore. We watch these images for a while, perhaps most naturally drawn in by the crisp intensity in Hedia Maron's closeups of Valencia and Azrieli.

Otherwise, where to look? Without received direction, our eyes flit and roam, scanning the screens, taking in fragments, randomly piecing one bit with another and another. In a real sense, watchers add to the authorship, and I wonder if Robbins and Childs factored us in.

The soundscape (Dana Wachs/Vorhees) often suggests street-side construction. The live performing seems fragmentary and accumulative, too. A single dancer first appears in the space--McDonough-Thayer, if I recall correctly--but we don't see other dancers in waiting, percolating in the open space to the rear of our seating. Something made me turn my head, though, and I noticed them. Over the course of the dance, one or more drifted into view or returned to this dark recess.  And, again, as a watcher (author?), I found I could relate--leaning in or leaning out from time to time.

Hex runs through Saturday, February 6. Performances are at 8pm plus an additional show at 5pm on Saturday. For information and tickets, click here.

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

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