Saturday, December 14, 2019

Tracks get fresher: bold new moves at New York Live Arts

FRESH TRACKS artists, left to right:
Anh Vo, Annie Heath, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd,
Kayla Hamilton and Stuart B Meyers

FRESH TRACKS: Anh Vo, Annie Heath, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, Kayla Hamilton, Stuart B Meyers
New York Live Arts
December 13-14

I came away from last night's edition of FRESH TRACKS--New York Live Arts' showcase for rising choreographers--eager to see each of the five pieces separately, with ample contemplative, processing time and space around each. But, of course, an omnibus program like this--squeezing in five 15-minute works, diverse in maker and nature--does not allow for that. You might take a restroom break during intermission and look around at other audience members on the line, each of them exclaiming variations on "Whew!" Other than that, you better keep pace. Simply put, this particular FRESH TRACKS lineup can be overwhelming--in a good way. Presentations by Anh Vo, Annie Heath, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, Kayla Hamilton and Stuart B Meyers made me hopeful for the future of dance in New York City, exemplifying the bold, urgent spirit of the art today.

Kayla Hamilton, first up, is an artist you should already know. But if you don't, take this opportunity. Nearly Sighted/unearthing the dark, created with a community of makers, sasses back at the male gaze, the terrified Karens of this world and anyone who might want to voice unsolicited opinions about a fat Black woman's body. With its quirky lighting cues and accessibility accommodations--including a riveting ASL interpreter/dancer, Brandon Kazen-Maddox--it also messes with the usual centering of non-disabled viewers and points of view.  I love it to pieces.

Informed by German Expressionist film, Stuart B MeyersKOPFKINO (head cinema) enhances its eerie scenario with dim, blueish lighting that strips its dancers--Meyers and Isabel Umali--of healthy skintones and readable, relatable facial features. Aside from its extraordinary visual aesthetics, the piece gets hair-raising power from a combination of slow, creeping movement and frozen tension in the bodies. A nightmare from the past but made for our nightmarish times.

Anh Vo's BABYLIFT--the title memorializes a tragedy of the Vietnam War, the crash of the first plane to airlift evacuated South Vietnamese orphans--is the boldest of the bold and would reward repeated viewings. The subversive quality of Vo's slithery femme, hypersexualized self-presentation in front of a carefully-arranged votive altar would seem to clash with the projected photo of a Buddhist monk immolating himself as fellow monks look on. When I later had a moment to think it through, I realized these two figures might agree that the body is the fiercest site of resistance.

Annie Heath and Sokunthary Svay--a Khmer refugee and now Bronx-based poet and librettist--often occupy different, primarily diametrically opposed areas of the stage in an excerpt from Heath's This Mother/land Fabric. This keeps you wondering about how they are related, how their thoughts and ways are related, as you gaze from one to the other. Careful, expert gestures of wrapping a sarong contrast with desperate, helpless ones such as lifting a heavy pile of folded clothes, trying to secure this bundle high against the back wall with nothing but one's tired arms. Heath struggles and struggles; Svay's words leave a chill: "my mouth is magically sewn together" and "to find a soft landing spot, leave your skin on the ground" and "let me nurture this brutality."

In his witty abstract ensemble, Neighbors, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd keeps five dancers moving like game pieces continually rearranged in dynamic spacial interrelationship. Coming at the end of a demanding evening, Neighbors both clears the palate and looks like a kind of work easily picked up by major troupe looking for bright new repertory. Which is to say, hooray for Lloyd. Watch this guy. But, really, keep track of everyone here.

FRESH TRACKS: Anh Vo, Annie Heath, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, Kayla Hamilton, Stuart B Meyers concludes with tonight's 7:30pm performance. For tickets, click here.

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

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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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