NYU TISCH SCHOOL OF THE ARTS
May 5, 2016
The Department of Dance at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts places unusual trust in its student body. Beyond an annual faculty concert and guest pieces for the graduating class, every show is student choreographed. This is no recklessness, as every piece is closely advised by invested faculty. This especially holds true with the Composers, Choreographers, and Designers Workshop, conceived by Kay Cummings to birth innovative meshes of original scores from Graduate Musical Theatre Writing, sets, costumes, and lighting from Graduate Design, and movement by the MFA’s and BFA’s of the Dance Department. For her final year after nearly twenty at its helm, each work testified to Cummings’ rigor as a mentor of the collaborative endeavor.
Choreographers today mostly dream of handmade sets. Naturally, this is the one of the concert’s most alluring features. A___ walks into a ____ and says _____ featured three boxes on wheels by Melanie May. Each box’s hollow was uniquely handled: emptiness, a billowy curtain, and suburban blinds through which dancers scurried until lights inside abruptly shifted the peaceful landscape to a glitchy discotheque. Kelvin Pater’s large shapes dominated considerably more in Held Apart, Pulled Together, tumbled about by bodies that mostly draped and rolled among them.
Original costumes equally tantalize. Specifically tailored for dance, their interactive potentials are choreographically taken from the theoretical to the physical. Terra/Marea’s showcase of lines was enhanced by Chritelle Matou’s aquatic garb – a reef-inspired top over a draped skirt, vibrantly reactive to Stephanie Buchner’s lighting. Santiago Orjuela-Laverde’s set of translucent tarp joined Susanne Houstle’s flesh-toned unitards in Layers via wrapping and rolling movements.
Hye Young Boren and Adam Ray Dyer kept movement as centerpiece, predetermining Lorenza Astengo Fefer’s set of suspended ropes for Anything Can Be to showcase fearlessly executed aerial dancing. While it left little room for choreography a terre, the task of keeping someone in the air at all times sufficiently engaged.
These pieces tend to be memorable for a shtick, yet some managed more behavioral identities. Katya Lazor, Tiffany Ogburn, and Owen Prum made a living room a universe in Then pleasant sunset, using Lynchian visuals from Andrew Muerdyk and a Robert Ashley-connoting score by Wes Braver, Nina Kauffman, and John Allen Watts. Dancers thrashed about a sofa, trembled before screens and mirrored a feminine apparition in a window. Veneer constantly reformed, shedding cloaks to reveal hemorrhaging flowers, only to be rewrapped and cast in shadows that multiplied and divided the cast of three. Environmental spacings in sleek costuming made Bound’s movement inextricably linked to its set, clinging to shifting frames like koalas and spilling from them like a clown car into spatial equilibrium.
A show and a school project, CC&D’s lessons are double-sided; we experience performance with curiosity into these young artists’ educations. Visions can be grandiose, tending to overstuff the eight allotted minutes with “arena rock” dance; however, through the stage fog, the true nature of complexity remains: to combine pure simplicities. While the ideal achieves balance, the more common result does not necessarily signify power struggle, but a need to converse.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews