March 20, 2019
Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights remains an anomaly of visual art since its estimated turn of the sixteenth century creation. The triptych’s middle panel feels like a feature film; every square inch is densely packed with activity. Nude figures take innocent pleasure in a landscape of fantastical flora and fauna, modified in proportion into a surrealism to aspire to. Avoiding what would be a redundant attempt to bring the painting to life, Dušan Týnek achieves the same affective wavelength through his own formal rigor and keen sense of humanity, entitled Le Jardin Qui Rit.
On paper it is hard to imagine Týnek in conversation with Bosch. Bosch’s depictions of realistic figures in dreamlike scenarios seem aesthetically at odds with Týnek’s intense abstractions of the dancing body. The choreographer demonstrates an awareness of this from the start, however, decorating the Rose Nagelberg Theatre at Baruch Performing Arts Center in a very bland treatment of AstroTurf with a cheap effigy of an unremarkable stone fountain at the center, occasionally squirting water in lackluster bursts.
From this locus, the cast of six emerges in yet another stark contrast to Bosch’s figures – white jumpsuits – and while Bosch’s figures make full use of their chimerical landscape, riding creatures and canoodling in oversized fruits, Týnek’s barer, more secluded space (Baruch’s basement), requires this imaginativeness to be translated into dancing itself, maintaining only an acrobatic sense from Bosch that otherwise requires a discipline his figures would never bother to employ.
Still, Týnek’s comparatively mechanical interactions are playfully experienced, while only ever edging on the erotic. Employing indiscriminate pairings that constantly rearrange, the dancers push the limits of possibility as they promenade off kilter and toss each other from one set of arms to another. In one of the work’s many systemic partnering sequences, every other dancer gets a turn to carry Elizabeth Hepp in a hold that crudely grasps between her shoulders and her legs, yet it somehow never seems invasive.
What makes this so is just as anachronistic to formalistic dance as Bosch was to his time – facial expression. Exuding a pleasurable daze, the members of the group are all energetically in love with each other, rendering an otherwise cold movement vocabulary a deeply tender physical analog to Bosch’s figures. Týnek isn’t all just neo-Cunningham either – he peppers physical structures with gestures that detract from their functional integrity, such as when two dancers prod at each other’s faces in full wheel, or a precarious counterbalance is put at risk by forceful shimmies.
It is in this refusal to mimic Bosch that Týnek matches his character. Decentralized interactions of varying speeds allow six moving bodies to feel like hundreds of still ones.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews