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Friday, March 23, 2018

Kinetic Light opens "DESCENT" at New York Live Arts

Scene from Alice Sheppard's DESCENT
Above: Laurel Lawson
Below: Alice Sheppard
(photo: MANCC)
Dancer-choreographer Alice Sheppard of Kinetic Light
(courtesy of the artist)

Months ago, I saw a raw showing of DESCENT, a work being developed by the disabled artist collective Kinetic Light--Alice Sheppard, Laurel Lawson and Michael Maag. Set up in a smallish GIBNEY studio, it lacked Maag's brilliant lighting and video design but was impressive even then--what with two athletically-strong women in wheelchairs tearing up and down a curvaceous ramp like competitive divas and confronting their desire for each other. Influenced by Rodin's sensuous Toilette de Vénus et Androméde and informed by the collective's interest in matters of disability and race, DESCENT's premiere run at New York Live Arts promised to be a must-see.

Rodin's Toilette de Vénus et Androméde (1886)
(photo: Rain Embuscado)

And so it is.

Strikingly beautiful thanks to Maag with his rotation of deep-colored, earthy landscapes and eye-popping starscapes as backdrop; lighting that conjures the play of moonlight and sun; erotic silhouettes; and ghostly, undulating waters skimming up the incline of the ingeniously-designed ramp.

Strikingly hot thanks to choreographer Sheppard and collaborator Lawson (para ice hockey athlete as well as dancer) who take passionate risks in and out of their chairs, on every surface of the ramp's peak, valley and recesses. Even when woozily swirling in their chairs, hurling themselves from one level of the ramp to another, or zooming one body and chair into the other dancer's grasp, these performers appear to be capable of joining impetuous minds. Their duets "sound" like songs to me, harmonies hard won with an outlandishness and tension about them. Will their union hold? Or will it fracture?

Lawson, in particular, made me see wings while gazing at a streamlined wheelchair and recognize a deity as an elemental force whose fire might range from warming to devastating.

DESCENT is sold out! Performances continue at New York Live Arts through tomorrow night--Saturday, 7:30pm. For information on a wait list for tickets, click here or call the box office at 212-924-0077.

New York Live Arts
219 West 19th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), Manhattan

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