Friday, November 4, 2016

Gibney company premieres "Folding In" at home

Scenes from Gina Gibney's Folding In
Above, left to right: Kassandra Cruz, Devin Oshiro and Amy Miller
Below: Nigel Campbell and Kassandra Cruz
(photos: Scott Shaw)

Gina Gibney lists her five dancers--Amy MillerBrandon WelchNigel CampbellKassandra Cruz and Devin Oshiro--as collaborators, and dance outsiders might think that role stops when a work's first performance begins. But it continues through the last movement of the work, and Gibney's artistry foregrounds performers in a way calls to mind Yeats musing, "How can we know the dancer from the dance?"

The Gibney Dance Company celebrates its 25th anniversary this season with the world premiere of Folding In, Gibney's first evening-length piece since opening her organization's second home, Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center.  Set to an atmospheric score by Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, the dance bears the distinct Gibney stamp in its imagistic poetry, picturesque sculpture and sensitive relationships that initiate and flow between and among dancers. This choreographer, I suspect, continuously tinkers and crafts a world she'd like to live in.

She describes the piece as "a meditation on the cycle of extension, resolution, and return" that exposes "the natural state of the body and how it seeks inevitable but unknowable endings." The dancing fills a looming white studio space tinted with lighting designer Asami Morita's muted, shifting chroma. Intriguingly, as the audience seating is arranged, the studio also features a deep area perpendicular to the scene and out of our view--what we can't see, can't know. That recessed area has a definite presence.

What we do see--and quite clearly, as is the Gibney way--might be hard to define. A corps of white-clad dancers spread themselves across the back wall like sticky scraps of paper torn from some once-unified whole--an image reflected in the projection on the wall. They initially use the wall as a medium in which to grow, to explore the strength of their hands and the reach of their limbs, to eventually and crucially render themselves distinct from their beginnings and from one another. Felicity Sargent's interestingly different costumes suggest that they were always meant to strike out in individual ways.

They emerge--agile, spiky Miller, "rubberband man" Welch and all--in a whirlpool of motion generating solitudes and interconnections. The work requires--and receives from its performer--both remarkable plasticity and exactitude. Although the makeup of her company has changed over these many years, Gibney has always had an eye for a dancer's dancer, some of the best collaborators an artist can hope for.

Folding In continues through Wednesday, November 12. For information and tickets, click here.

Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center
280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan

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