|Scenes from Are we a Fossil, and Of Facings by Molly Poerstel|
Above: Jennifer Kjos, Eleanor Smith, and Alice MacDonald
Below: Kjos and MacDonald
(photos: Scott Shaw)
It's one of the things I love most about dance, whether doing it or being there to see it. Molly Poerstel's Are we a Fossil, and Of Facings would have great, great gusts of energy even if it were not for the unusual audience seating arrangements which expose the viewer to it. These arrangements expose the viewer, too, creating a heightening and unnerving effect.
The hour-long dance takes place in the theater at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center and tames that space by ignoring the customary rules of engagement. There's no front. Folding chairs for audience members are arranged around the floor of the performance area in a few single strands with small circles or clumps of chairs here and there, especially surrounding columns. You and your closet neighbor might find yourselves in chairs pointing away from a column at radically different angles, wondering how that's going to work later when, reportedly, there will be dancers and dancing to be seen.
Though dark and still somewhat heavy in feeling, the theater seems, if not airy, at least more encouraging of a flow of energy. You can well imagine a river of energy--or a real river--coursing through it. It's a little bit nice but, as noted before, also exposing. You're forced to look around at everyone else sitting in their lines of chairs or their groupings, and you feel on display.
One of the secret little psychological perks about performance-going is that you're usually not on display. You sit back, and it's somebody else's show, somebody else's responsibility to make it all work.
Situating the audience inside the belly of the work, Molly Poerstel offers complex rhythmic structures and movement patterns in which forms calcify and disintegrate. Here, Poerstel gives agency to her performers as they unveil courageous bodies in transformation.
--from promotional material for Are we a Fossil, and Of FacingsBeing in that belly means you make decisions. You make mistakes. You make discoveries. Being in that belly means the likelihood of missing some courageous bodies in transformation--Jennifer Kjos, Alice McDonald, Eleanor Smith and, at times, Tara Sheena--because you're looking one way and don't see one or another of them over there doing her thing; or turning your head to catch someone way off to the side and wondering if you're supposed to be doing that; or tucking your feet out of the way of a surging dancer or two or three.
And, boy, do they ever surge. Yes, these bodies are courageous, sculpted by Poerstel--statuesque, monumental, Winged Victories sweeping through in rhythmic, repetitive flight or charge or leaping trot. At a certain point, the movement to Dana Wachs's music recalls Laura Dean's work with Philip Glass--driven, repetitive with striking variations and developments. Some of Mandy Ringger's lighting schemes remind me of dramatic museum lighting on a precious object, darkening everything that surrounds and could distract from the object of focus.
Poerstel's prelude melds creativity with basic carpentry--an apt way to set the tone for this impressive performance.
Are we a Fossil, and Of Facings runs through Saturday, March 12 with performances at 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.
280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan