SHIPS AND SALSA
July 9, 2015
For the bottomless stew of New York’s emerging dance troupes, lack of funds, space, and time often results in general aesthetics - open-ends by talented soloists. Chuck Wilt has managed to hone a singular language of presence, equally amplifying each human inside. Occupying four generations of Tisch dancers, UNA Projects returned home to Second Avenue for Ships and Salsa.
Ships opens in arresting calm. Blue light caresses dresses rippling in response to the smallest impulse within a barricade of white chairs. Wilt takes his time, stretching moments to hallucinogenic proportions. A cast of four looks exponentially larger; when their activities stop on a dime, independent journeys lock into one constellation topped by Catherine Kirk atop a chair like a kore, the rest sprawled beneath her pedestal.
Durations slip about; in the time it takes Lauren Kravitz to throw a tantrum, Kirk shifts her forehead from Jane Paley’s to nestle under her chin. Extending innocent interactions like taffy, Kirk corners Paley by continuously almost touching her belly. Dynamics shuffle, avoiding unison, but giving everyone a turn, weaving one texture that tosses and turns with the uncertainty of a minefield.
Toting oceanic soundscapes, blue hues, flowing garments, and movements calm and torrential, Ships in no way portrays. Wilt generates atmospheres, pressing movement into a greater fabric, spacious enough for emotion to connect to something as cold as a sea vessel. Dancers choose to assist or neglect, calling to mind nautical distress signals. What responsibility do bodies have to one another when each already contains what they need to sustain?
A beachy backdrop beckons the full company to plop in for Salsa. Kyle Filley dons floaties. Paley holds a blow-up whale like a trophy husband. Kirk gently claps from the most disengaged stare as Rhianna’s “Cake” infects the stale serenity. Straightforward musical relationships and ensemble dancing are made aliens by the abstract norm, but the intention goes further. Ross Katen and Filley share a softshoe dialogue hoping to carve out a smile.
Casting his bodies’ proportions, Wilt’s bones and Filley’s musculature form a trio with their size disparity. In white briefs, they make their way up a diagonal as obstacles to each other’s common, yet individual path. Wilt’s physical terrain provides Filley the opportunity to recline on his femur. A fraternal relationship, their forward trajectory is dependent on cutting the other off. Neither completes a sentence, the dissonance catapulting them forward.
UNA’s aesthetic draws on Gaga’s meticulous sensitivity to sensation, but extends the investigation to emotion and thought. In doing so, Wilt develops movement on fluent bodies that nonetheless uncovers possibility in the failure to accomplish ideals. A ballroom frame is distorted with clumsy arm placement, throwing shoulders and spines off-kilter. They are free to be heavy, unflatteringly draped in lifts visibly difficult. It is not pure abstraction, but an embrace of inability, scrutiny as to why we act, and catering of the task to the doer and the moment.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews