Performing Arts: Dance
October 10, 2021
Guests to the cell plunge into a sound bath drawn by Johnny Butler. Participants are free to wander, chit-chat, and view a video installation on the second floor by Alex Taylor, displaying stark, head-on footage of the members of Gwendolyn Gussman’s HOLDTIGHT answering the evening’s work’s titular question, What Keeps You Going?

The answers continue in physical space, only to re-enter a comparatively analog digital one. Each performer, Gussman included, individually speaks their own recipes for self- sustainment into a tape recorder and plays their answers back in a harmony that joins Butler’s continuing mix of live and pre-recorded sound. A trademark Bausch-ian move to give only answers to unspoken questions, a collage of warm fuzzy feelings wafts above a floor covered in a lot of a substance – here, shredded tires, courtesy of Anna Driftmier.

The performers take deliberate steps along right angles amid the rubber rubble. The occasional bumping of bodies is handled with grace, until conflict, as though a foreign pathogen invading an ecosystem, infects each performer’s objective – Gussman and Nico Gonzales argue over arranging rubber shards in circles or squares; Xenia Mansour rattles off a litany of desires until Emily Haughton pummels her into a wall, Café Müller style. We are not here just to feel good about ourselves.

What follows is a walking tour of solos, each of which follows the same energetic arc: meditative beginning, quirky buildup, climax of rage or sadness, “what now?” denouement. Mansour, Gonzales, Haughton, Gussman, and Dervla Carey-Jones do the dance-theatre version; Butler takes the same ride with his saxophone. Each is a fully committed force of nature, though, in rapid succession leaves the whole both stilted and emotionally exhausting, and your average empath concerned for the well-being of the performers who solo twice, sometimes consecutively.

On the other hand, much of the piece’s efficacy comes from Gussman’s willingness to overlap and overhear. Scenes become richer when one’s text infuses with another’s movement. Either way, more needed to have been worked out by the time we arrived at a premature feel-good hum-along finale when it was energetically clear that tensions were still high.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

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