Performing Arts: Dance
February 7, 2020
In a multimedia production of film, dance, poetry, and music, Deborah Colker presented her Brazilian based company, Companhia de Danca, in Chelsea’s Joyce Theater. Colker’s piece was an eightpart series which focused as much on scenery and ambiance as it did on the dancing itself.

The piece, Cão Sem Plumas (Dog Without Feathers), was inspired by the poetry of João Cabral de Melo Neto. The opening section, titled Alluvium, begins with a projection along the back wall of the theater.

A stunningly cinematic image in black and white shows a child carrying the branches of a tree through a forest, then a dried up river bed. He is barefoot, minimally dressed, and caked in mud. Following him transports the audience into a land which feels vast and foreign, the opposite of a cramped cold, theater in the heart of New York City.

The film continues throughout the work as it follows various protagonists through different scenes. Directed by Joao Elias and Colker, the film couples nature and beast in a beautiful marriage. Through Brazil’s expansive landscapes of sugar cane farms, deserts, and mangrove forests, it explores the rich caverns of Earth’s diversity.

As dim yellow lights rise on the stage, the high energy of the dancers come as a surprise following the tranquility of the film. Colker’s movement vocabulary is hard to nail down, and at times this becomes extremely overwhelming. There are unique moments where the dancers are controlled, emotive, and mesmerizing. However, before the moment can sink in, the dancers have already moved on to meaningless, generic tricks and recognizable ballet vocabulary.

Though not against a fusion of forms, this particular combination eliminates the sacred nature of the work and muddles the thesis of the piece. The set of the stage mimics that of the film. A thin layer of dirt and dust is kicked up into the air as the dancers fill the space and stomp the floor. There are strips of canvas which sometimes hang from the ceiling mimicking the mangrove roots.

The dancers even experiment with metal cages like the holes of the dried river. Dressed in unitards which look like the body covered in mud, they remain androgynous. Neither man, nor woman, perhaps not human at all, their image marries the theme of man’s origins within nature.

All in all, Cão Sem Plumas' stunning interaction feels like a sacred work- which is why the stimulation of elements feels overproduced and misaligned. Arguably, this could have been Colker’s method in a desire to drive the point home. Just as man destroys nature by overly mining its resources, Colker grossly stimulates the work to leave the audience begging for simplicity within sanctified ground.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri

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