Friday, March 4, 2016

Juliana F. May's "Adult Documentary"

A two-toned carpet--dull brown and beige intermingled splotches--now covers a springy floor and seating risers at The Chocolate Factory. For some reason, just the sight of that carpet switches anxiety to HIGH and seems to make the ceiling feel like it has descended a foot or two and might press even lower. I can't swear this isn't the case.

Luckily, this setup (designed by Sara C. Walsh) won't last forever, although the season for Juliana F. May's new production, Adult Documentary, will continue its stretch over two weeks, a rare blessing for a choreographer and a rare chance for you, the viewer. Get your butt over to Queens and into one of those tightly-packed folding chairs. As another choreographer advised me last night, "Just surrender."

That won't be easy. A delicate, pixyish, ultimately irritating Connor Voss drifts into the space and begins lavishing the audience with high-pitched, childish babble obsessively repeated; fussy, high-strung gesturing; a startling screech for no apparent reason; a tendency to fold their body and gently tuck it at the end of an audience row. Listen carefully, and you eventually sense you're listening in on something of critical, telling import. Voss's lengthy, bravura performance is, at once, gorgeous and worrisome. Is it permissible to be tickled at times? Or to be alarmed by some aspects of it? Should we even be watching it?

Things grow more adult in this "documentary" first with the entrance of Kayvon Pourazar, intensifying the energy in the room with gruff sound and violently jutting movements. His screeching, lumbering presence seems to send Voss into orbit in a madhouse kind of way. You get more of the picture, and you shrink back. But we're just at the beginning.

May's concern with "the form of trauma" and "the trauma of form" takes clear shape as other dancers--Lindsay ClarkTalya Epstein and Rennie McDougall--complete the picture. What ensues next looks like a court dance staged inside a massive cuckoo clock--impersonal, cyclical movements neatly efficient, athletic, mechanically synchronized; the regular, clicking or striding rhythms; the repeated lines of text that hint at a story before spraying it with buckshot. Sharp barks replace words at frustrating places, making you wonder. Nudity, full and partial, insinuates something, falling short of declaration. Periodic variations on things you come to expect keep you off guard.

Integrated with vocal performance, the ensemble's dancing is damned amazing as physical phenomenon, imagery and durational performance. And it takes its toll. I have rarely seen a troupe of dancers line up for their curtain call with such looks of drained exhaustion, no smiles. May smiled--as she should. Her dancers went all out for her vision, and they scored.

With music by Chris Seeds, lighting by Chloe Z. Brown and costumes by Mariana Valencia

Adult Documentary runs through March 12, Tuesday-Saturdays, 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.

The Chocolate Factory
5-49 49th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens

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