Saturday, February 4, 2017

Gillen's Vim Vigor presents "FUTURE PERFECT" at Baruch

Jason Cianciulli and Emma Whiteley
of Vim Vigor Dance Company
in FUTURE PERFECT
(photo: David Bazemore)

I'll say this for choreographer Shannon Gillen: She's got wicked imagination. And you might want to think twice about going camping with her. Or taking a swig of whatever she's got in that thermos. I'll say that, too.

Anyway, VIM VIGOR DANCE COMPANY is running the New York premiere of Gillen's FUTURE PERFECT at Baruch Performing Arts Center. The premise is a wilderness trip that's as wild as they get, where this dance artist plays loose and fast with time, identity, sex, death--everything but taxes. Taxes you can do yourself. Leave the rest to Gillen and her un-matchable performers whose near-acrobatic skills give this roughly hour-long dance drama its wow power.

Hooking up with beer-swilling, shifty-looking strangers under the stars? To be avoided at all costs. But who, actually, are the dangerous ones? Everyone in the show and watching it will be saying the same thing: "Your guess is as good as mine." I only dare tell you that great care has been taken--with the set, the sound and the now normal, now eerie, now garish lighting--to give this landscape just the right combination of realism and pumped-up, laughable artificiality, which is to say, to make it a nightmare waiting to happen.

L-r: Martin Durov, Laja Field, Shannon Gillen,
Emma Whitely, Rebecca Diab and Jason Cianciulli
of VIM VIGOR DANCE COMPANY
(photo: David Bazemore)

The wonderful cast of Jason Cianciulli, Martin Durov, Laja FieldEmma Whiteley and company apprentice Rebecca Diab could have been recruited from (or might easily be recruited for) one of those online series we all love to binge watch. The only problem I see is the way Gillen's movement--rough handling, tumbling and whirling, with dancers sailing around and over fake boulders and one another--stretches to fill nearly every development in the piece. It's a hoot when you first see it, a holler when you see it again but, after a while, you might have seen it too much, and it veers close to looking like a gimmick.

Best to ignore the press release's claim that the characters "confront their place in the universe," and the piece "wrestles with our desperation for a spiritual sign and asks: What magic is left?" At what point in the making of FUTURE PERFECT were these ideas floated and, I wonder, at what point were they left to float right out to sea? Because I don't know that I see any of that here--or need to.

Concept, Direction, Writing, Set Design: Shannon Gillen
Choreography: Shannon Gillen in collaboration with VIM VIGOR DANCE COMPANY 
Sound Score: Martin Durov
Lighting Design: Barbara Samuels
Costume Design: Joseph Blaha

FUTURE PERFECT runs Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm through February 11. For tickets and further information, click here.

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