DOUGLAS DUNN & DANCERS
February 16, 2015
By the 20th century, contemporary dance found two sonic comrades: Stravinsky and Bach. While Stravinsky’s innovations pushed dance to find proportional inventiveness, Bach became someone to turn to when one was ready. Concerto Barocco and Esplanade remain landmarks in their creators’ repertories. Even now, Baroque accompaniment in dance reads as a statement of reverent maturity. For Aidos, Douglas Dunn has not so much partnered with Bach as employed him. The Cello Suites, selected and arranged in new combinations, is a formal tool for preventing conceptual humor from toppling physical beauty.
The piece shares its name with the Greek goddess of shame. It places Aidos, historically dramatized, in a sterile environment of abstraction, splitting her embodiment between two towering dancers, Jin Ju Song-Begin and Jessica Martineau. In bright hues they move with mournful confidence, stretching time with mere steps. They consistently co-inhabit space, but express no point of view to one another. Branching into counterpoint, they converge only on matching postures.
The act of splitting one feeling between two people calls for scrutiny as to whether a feeling is ever one thing. Between Aidos’ halves, it is never clear if their manifestation of shame is self-reflected or projected on the others. When together, six other dancers, bound tightly in a variety of black unitards, surround, separate, frame, pretend to eat, and wrestle the dual-goddess to the ground, yet are never affected by her, even when it seems they should be. Their obtrusive linearity and percussive prancing endow them with the advantage of a mutinous Greek chorus. They only tell, carrying necessary information with no dramatic weight. Aidos finds herself, too, in Dunn’s toolbox, stripped of power when surrounded by data that initiates but never responds.
For half of the piece, this data is all we have, as though shame herself is ashamed to appear in her tale. Within BAM Fisher, mirrored duets encircle the perimeter and reckon with the junctures of diagonal lines. Dunn himself makes ensemble cameos, gracing the marley in holographic jazz slippers. His age irrelevant, he asks that you see him as an equal member of his ensemble, even as his men promenade and waft him majestically to the cadential flourishes of Ha-Yang Kim’s playing. Dunn combats the hubris of a creator performing his work by making it impossible to ignore, then shaming you for noticing.
He might as well, considering the eclectic physicalities of the troupe. Timothy Ward floats between twisted balances with a sharp gazes reaching beyond his shapes. Jake Szczypek barrels through phrasework with crispness that highlights the insertion of gesture into pure technique. Uniformity of costume and formality of movement fail to forbid these qualities to stand out individually. In his investigation of the inherent embarrassment of the dance act, Dunn avoids falling back on ridiculous displays by using them to frame the unthreatening nature of difference.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews