SOULEYMANE BADOLO in BENON
February 17, 2014
Surrounding all four sides of St.Marks Church Saturday evening, the audience faces into the stage. Decorated with crafty trash and recyclables arranged in large squares (from Tony Turner), the lights dim, and two figures approach the space. One in a hooded trash bag cape and the other in purple sweatpants and a trash bag harness, it becomes evident the next hour will involve the themes of pollution and the environment. The duet is “Benon” (harvest) choreographed and danced by Souleymane Badolo with Charmaine Warren dancing alongside him.
Warren follows closely behind Badolo as the two creep through the space. He drops plastic cups as he goes. They crash onto the floor creating a dizzying array of unpleasant vibrations that send the nails on a chalkboard feeling up my spine. This feeling continues for the first 15 minutes. Crushing and sliding the cups, the two dancers continuously pick up and drop the plastic, as if it’s a game…who can make the most noise?
Darkness falls on the space and Warren breaks into a powerless solo. An intermittent improvised saxophone tune by Jeff Hudgins aids only little to the bland textures of the minimalistic choreography. His music attempts to pick up the demure movements that are also accompanied by traditional recordings from Burkina Faso.
Switching places, Badolo occupies one corner of the space, performing what appears to be a ritual to “celebrate the harvest.” Attached to a new costume (a rosy pink top and bottom) is an elaborate grass attachment that gives the image of the lengthy wings of an eagle or Icarus before flight. Although the subject matter is unclouded, the dancing is unable to take off.
He flaps his arms stepping side to side, occasionally rotating underneath himself to whirl around. His presence is internally focused for much of the performance, but at times he reaches a standstill and his gaze turns outward. These are the noteworthy moments, when the performers attempted to not only connect with, but also please the audience that surrounds them. At one point, Badolo approaches two audience members, gets close, and stares them down.
In the final minutes, Hudgins joins the two dancers in the space. They emit groans and hisses to accompany the saxophone but like much of the piece, all of the elements don’t match up.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon