Friday, April 22, 2016

Elemental dancing: Munisteri's new "Antimony (51)"

Katie Weir and other dancers
performing Ben Munisteri's Petrichor (2015)
The company also premieres Antimony (51) on this weekend's program at BAM Fisher.
(photo: William Chafkin)

Antimony sounds as if it could be the opposite of harmony. But while the word--literally meaning "not alone"--does connote the presence of contradiction or paradox, it's also the name of a metalloid element, the 51st element on the Periodic Table. And now it's the newest creation--entitled Antimony (51)--from choreographer Ben Munisteri.

Premiered at BAM Fisher's Fishman Space, the hour-long ensemble work finds its inspiration in the brittle element variously described as "white," "silvery," "silvery-white," "bluish-white" or "lustrous gray." Antimony, Munisteri says, is "unable to exist alone in nature." His dancers exist in an orderly structure and decidedly not alone; in fact, when we first notice them, lined up on the nearly-dark stage, they're holding one another's hands. A brief image, perhaps meant to be received almost subliminally, but it well conveys the spirit of the dance to come.

Munisteri works with only six dancers in this--and only eight in the following piece, Petrichor, last year's premiere--but gives the illusion of far more. It does not take showy, aggressive movement to fill and animate this space--just the opposite. Every turn, dip and extension, every coalescence or separation and regrouping is unforced, performed with modest restraint and within undisturbed tranquility. Partners use the gentlest, most nimble control of each other, by simple touch to, say, a head or a shoulder. This is best shown in the smooth and non-gendered way in which a lift of one can easily transform into a lift of the other. The soft pastels and brights of designer Harry Nadal's flattering unitards contribute to this magic, turning every twirl into a display of quicksilver, fairy-like changeability.

In all things, the dancers model mutual support, and no one gets more spotlight time or higher status than anyone else. Here is Utopia expressed in movement, and I suppose it could not truly be a dance unless "contradiction" and "paradox"--questions, differences contained within the whole--did not empower things to actually move. But what you get out of all of that movement--and out of the clear dedication of these fine dancers to Munisteri's aesthetic--is a remarkable sense of cohesion. You see that also in Petrichor, which offers both a showcase for the dancers' technical rigor with an underlying trace of jazzy impulse and rhythm.

I was surprised by how much this cohesion meant to me, how much it worked on me and charmed me. I always love seeing the spark of individuality in individual dancers, and that is so not the look here. And yet. What's in the fabric of this dance, giving it its seamless appearance? Contradiction, paradox, human presence.

Dancers: Eric Sean Fogel, Katie Weir, Shane Rutkowski, Angela Maffia, Shomeiko Ingham, Kenneth Stephen Neil, Andrew Harper and Ricky Wenthen

Lighting: Kathryn Kaufmann

Antimony (51) continues tonight and tomorrow, Saturday, with performances at 7:30. For information and tickets, click here.

BAM Fisher (Fishman Space)
321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn

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