SOAKING WET - JANICE ROSARIO
October 3, 2015
The beauty of Soaking WET is that it does not impose itself on that which it curates; it is shaped from the outside, in, and out again. David Parker’s programming is an invitation to a potluck at the West End Theater. To kick off its thirteenth season, due attention has been given to the kid’s table. Janice Rosario and Company come to the plate with confident polish on a program of their own, introducing a new season by introducing themselves.
Rosario’s work is spatially rigid, disciplining bodies and motion in refined trails. In a Standstill (Re-Worked) highlights the process of transition, arranging a trio as a juggling sequence of duets between a duet and a solo. Unlea(she)d centers on a structure made similarly ambiguous. A quartet of women situate in a line of three with one outsider cast to the right. From the end of each solo comes a shifting of the conveyor belt, bringing someone new in line and booting someone else out. This line and point read as circular by virtue of the humans inside.
In Magnetism, Rosario’s partnering centers less on brute athleticism and more on collective compromise with force and anatomy. A couple link at the elbow not as a reference to camaraderie, but as an obstacle, bringing them into tight quarters that must be unwoven with the elbows intact. Contemporary ballet’s all too decorative contortion becomes a tender compromise.
Such clarity is lost in solo work. The diverse energy of Rosario’s female company shapes the space, boldly used to highlight how we hold back our own kind. We miss this, however, in Un-becoming and The Making Of, the two solos on the program. With no one to play against, Brianna Williams clings to safe notions of femininity as she pops and arches her way through blurry paths, while Deanna Martinez does not quite earn the right to sulk with an unadventurous assemblage of gestures.
Between glimmers of promise, Rosario succumbs to the dangers of her aesthetic. The buildup of slow gestures into a swift frenzy would make more sense in Unlea(she)d if the trope wasn’t present in every other piece. In a Standstill’s canons fail to magnify the material due to a lack of hand-crafted texture. Now that we see contemporary ballet as more sensual than edgy, the stakes are fewer when performers are allowed to indulge in their prettiness.
Rosario has a consistent sense of pace – medium tempo, anchored down by minimalist or atmospheric music selections. Magnetism crossfades works by Glass and Richter together as though assuming their music is indistinct and works as a whole. Although movement often goes on until music ends, Glass’s Violin Concerto eventually fades out to an end that is both premature and overdue. One might wonder if Soaking WET is too much of a luxury for young choreographers. When it is not choreography, but lighting and music creating atmosphere, performing with technical limitations would ensure the choreographic crafting of a world.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews