Thursday, April 5, 2018

For Jack Ferver, "Everything Is Imaginable"

Choreographer Jack Ferver
premieres Everthing Is Imaginable
this week at New York Live Arts.

So...where are we?

Sometimes, that's a useful way to begin looking into a dance.

Jeremy Jacob's visual design frames, while never neatly containing, Jack Ferver's Everything Is Possible--a bifurcated evening at New York Live Arts. The first part of the work features an old-timey set, theatrically artificial and cartoonish in its vague pastel flourishes. For the second, Jacob substitutes an unpainted model of the set which Ferver--petite as he is--looms over. The indistinct look of both sets and the Alice in Wonderland-like shift in size open the possibility that we have quit daytime reality and fallen into a queer space where time dissolves, where things and identities overlap, intersperse or become malleable.

The first act features four solos built around the childhood icons of each of their dancers, starting with ballet star James Whiteside's take on the beloved Judy Garland--resplendent in her spangled dress, physically expansive and exuberant just short of flying to pieces. She looks as some of us will remember her on tv in the early '60s. Cole Porter's "I Happen to Like New York," especially Judy's version, strikes just the right clunky note of intensity--sort of "I'm telling you I like it, but I'm gonna break it--and you--before it breaks me." But Whiteside ends up flopped on his back, as will all the dancers to come.

Martha Graham dancer Lloyd Knight--in a shapely standout performance--gives us an exquisite portrait of Graham over the dance rebel's voice--for instance, her thoughts on how "spontaneity" and "simplicity" in dance require years of grueling work, "costing no less than everything." Garen Scribner invokes figure skater Brian Boitano--an Olympics champ from the '80s who came out as gay in 2013. Ferver slows down or fragments or zooms in on details of a skating routine; Scribner's energy reflects the mix of exhilaration and amusement his viewers might feel. And Reid Bartelme, in a bizarre--if still adorable--twist, trots out as the lavishly pink-maned My Little Pony.

The end of intermission brings on apprehension. We've learned that, during an accident in rehearsal, Ferver tore his calf. Now, turned from the audience and towards the model of Jacob's set, he relates that story, painful to hear. It's worse to watch him make his way through revised choreography; though avoiding jumps and other demanding moves, he really dances far more than anyone might have expected and looks grimly determined as he keeps talking. The injury brings up memories of betrayal, trauma and loneliness, transparently shared. His long exposition throws a different light on the earlier solos; it renders damage and lingering vulnerability all too imaginable.

Costumes: Reid and Harriet Design
Lighting: Lauren Libretti

Everything Is Imaginable continues with performances tonight, Friday and Saturday at 8pm; and Friday at 10pm. For information and tickets, click here.

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

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