Thursday, April 20, 2017

NY premieres by Kathy Westwater at Brooklyn Studios for Dance

Scene from the world premiere of
Kathy Westwater's Anywhere at Temple University
Dancers Alex Romania with Ilona Bito and Hadar Ahuvia
(photo: Bill Hebert)

After seeing Kathy Westwater's New York premieres of Anywhere and Extemporaneousness at Brooklyn Studios for Dance, I went looking for synonyms of the word entropy. I found deterioration, degeneration, crumbling, decline, degradation, decomposition, breaking down, collapse. I know she has made work and performed at Staten Island's former Fresh Kills Landfill--see Chambered, an installation of Anja Hitzenberger's photos from this project, also at BSD through April 30--and, like many of us, surely has societal and planetary fate on her mind. And, just maybe, there's something in there that's about the need to yank a structure from its pedestal and start over.

While there's nothing of this overtly expressed in Extemporaneousness and Anywhere--performed by separate casts that do not overlap--they both inhabit a space where bodies appear to continuously struggle, and lose that struggle, against gravity and time. Their periodic impact on the floor emphasizes weight, consequence and maybe desperation.

In both works, I found the dynamics unchanging--bodies jutting, squiggling, folding, twisting, drooping, buckling, sagging, staggering, slumping, tumbling either alone or in interactions across the wide studio space. I'm thinking it was Wilson Pickett who sang "Put your hand on your hip and let your backbone slip." Westwater is big on letting the backbone slip--literally and over and over--though Soul Man Pickett might take issue with this interpretation.

At the start of Anywhere, the cast labors to unfurl Seung-Jae Lee's gleaming and monumental set. That set is an eyeful--less whimsical in nature than its ingenious structure might first lead you to believe. In its own way, it's beautiful, but it looms with almost hypnotic, magnetizing control over the community of dancers in front of it. It was fascinating to play with the possible intentions here--as with the difference between those cute, high-tech headphones we were all issued and the analog boombox that shows up late in the piece. Unfortunately, I ended up feeling weary from the aesthetic sameness and the unconvincing lengthiness of the piece.

Kathy Westwater Dance performers:

Extemporaneousness: Laurel Atwell, Belinda He, Mercedes Searer, EmmaGrace Skove-EpsKay Ottinger and Rainey White

Anywhere: Hadar AhuviaIlona BitoAmanda HuntAlex Romania, and Kathy Westwater

Kathy Westwater Dance continues through April 22 with performances at 8pm. On Saturday, April 22, stay for a post-performance talk with Aaron Mattocks. On Saturday, April 29, Westwater will also hold a roundtable discussion--On Monuments & the Monumental, from 2-4:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

Brooklyn Studios for Dance
210 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn
(map/directions)

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