DANCES BY DANCERS
July 20, 2017
Dances by Dancers is the third iteration of a collection of work by performers of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. It is a privileged peek into what doers of a major figure’s work are thinking about when given a shared outlet to make. Among widely ranging aesthetics, the compelling phenomenon emerges of each piece’s elephant being in another room. This is to say that the impulse generating the piece is never explicitly depicted, but sequestered just outside the doors of NYU Tisch Dance’s Jack Crystal Theater, commented upon in safely constructed dialogues.
Many tactical avenues arrive at this result. In the realm of movement, Christina Robson modifies her orientations to be responsive to a landscape that is not physically present in Nestor and I. Her face becomes imperative in providing clues of where she is or whom she is with. Her head cocks with a smirk towards her circled arms as though to say, “Wanna go in? No? Alright, suit yourself.” Her physical existences of dancing, miming, and doing are not segregated, but welcomingly combined on the same body in the same space.
Shane Larson comes to “Again, move on when you’re ready” disturbed and fidgeting as though rushing from work, spending the rest of the piece spinning it off in sleek floorwork flurries. In “Repetitive and Indulgent” or “…kill the Buddha,” Talli Jackson’s Adonis figure is clad in a summer dress, sun hat, and large sunglasses as he perpetuates a loop of concentrated undulating motion, impervious to the frivolity imposed atop it.
Others subject themselves to pure task. Collaboratively created Untitled (Performance for Five) is a series of games in which movements are pieces that come with the set, allowed to distort as long as verbal signals to change are obeyed. This is hardly a solemn endeavor; shifts happen so unpredictably that dancers break out laughing or jitter in playful frustration. Cognitive rigor and lightheartedness are equally welcome in the work’s arena.
Clothing offers critical information. Jenna Riegel’s as you are/soaked in bleach features three women, mostly clothed save their breasts, exposed through unbuttoned blazers, moving to highlight the very thing you try to pretend does not feel strange, prompting you to ask yourself why when it inevitably does. Untitled and Antonio Brown’s MOOD involve hyper-plainness – the former in gray gym clothes and the latter in all white. The former’s teamwork gives a sense of awkward gym class uniformity. The latter, discussing the entertainment industry, strips the big personalities we hear in the soundscore to condensed essences.
Words, ostensibly the easiest element to comprehend, are obscured in suggestive intrigue. Larson’s sound collage culminates in a voicemail by a loving, older female figure. She doesn’t say much. The two are obviously close, so she doesn’t have to for her intended audience, who makes himself less visually apparent to make space for the sound. Untitled features a recorded voice teaching a phrase the players follow. Some words can be said faster than bodies can represent; others must go to great lengths to describe a moment that only takes a second to execute. Talking and dancing take turns catching up with the other while the voice constantly self-edits for directional clarity, disallowing any true authority figure.
Sound is the most immediate atmospheric signifier. All we hear from Robson’s landscape is her own grunt of exertion navigating it. The shabby recording quality of Larson’s collage is a constant reminder of the piece’s lack of illusion. Jackson’s movement and Liszt, seemingly paired for the sake of incongruity, actually do the same thing – a simple tune taken through ridiculous variations, embodied by simple movement, ridiculously clothed. Riegel’s musical reminder that “I don’t have a gun” in the folksy rendition of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” is chilling against the calm orchestration, suggesting a rageful existence packaged under a trained, polite veneer.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews