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Friday, February 15, 2019

New York Live Arts presents Westwater's "Rambler, Worlds Worlds A Part"

Choreographer Kathy Westwater
opened Rambler, Worlds Worlds A Part
last evening at New York Live Arts
in a co-presentation with Lumberyard.

Kathy Westwater
Rambler, Worlds Worlds A Part
New York Live Arts
(co-presented with Lumberyard Center for Film and Performing Arts)
February 14-16

It is our universal capacity for pain, and our histories of pain, that offer us hope of ever giving a damn about another being--or even just recognizing the value of doing so. Created by Kathy Westwater and her dancers, Rambler, Worlds Worlds A Part, deliberately inflicts nearly unrelenting discomfort and disorder. For the ears, the driven discordance of the late composer Julius Eastman, filled perhaps with the pain of being Black and queer in this society but even more with Black, queer defiance and zest. For the eyes, seven bodies propelled out of everyday, conventional function--how we look, how we walk, when we are doing the things we are asked to do--into states of less rational, conventional control. 

When the audience wanders in to take seats, dancers are already in view, attending to one another in preparation for what their bodies will endure (and achieve). I watched this process during a showing of excerpted material Westwater held at Gibney (a showing, as it happens, that in no way prepared me for the ultimate weight of this production). This time, at the New York Live Arts premiere, I did not enter until very shortly before the dance proper began. So I missed almost all of this prelude. But I remembered its importance and kind of felt it in the air as the dancers rose and moved away from view.

With a dimming of the lights, they returned--a few taking seats in easy chairs tucked into downstage corners; the first explorer, Rakia Seaborn, slowly placing one foot, then the other, in front of her as if testing how, and if, her Black body could relate to the white floor gleaming beneath it.

On either side of the space, pianists began to apply intensity, sharp against ear and mind. One by one, or in duos or groupings, dancers began to layer the space with roughly off-centered, loosely flung and floppy movement tumbling in front of a wide backdrop, Roderick Murray's lighting only slightly revealing ashy streaks rising from a dark, murky surface. Like Westwater's enigmatic title, Seung Jae Lee's visual design compels interest but dances forever out of reach. By the end of the hour-plus piece, past a moment of diminished intensity and complexity, we see things more clearly but still do not gain reliable understanding of what we are seeing.

The work of some dancers stood out for me--Alex Romania, vividly bearing down into giving way into seamless motion; Paul Singh letting his backbone slip; Thomas F. DeFrantz eventually slowing the rush of matters to find his hips, find himself, find his life in the midst of chaos. And, although his gift to the work is relatively brief, countertenor M. Lamar introducing an ambiguity that can be both a place of rest and of lush articulation.


Choreographed by Kathy Westwater in collaboration with
the performers

Directed by Kathy Westwater

Performed by Ilona Bito, Thomas F. DeFrantz, Alex Romania,
Rakia Seaborn, Stacy Lynn Smith, Paul Singh and Kathy Westwater

Music by Julius Eastman, performed by Joseph Kubera and
Adam Tendler, with Patrick Gallagher and others; and
M. Lamar, performed by M. Lamar

Set and Visual Design by Seung Jae Lee

Lighting Design by Roderick Murray

Costumes by fufu

Dramaturgy by Melanie George


Rambler, Worlds Worlds A Part continues through tomorrow with performances at 7:30. For information and tickets, click here.

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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