Performing Arts: Dance
January 24, 2022
Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith have been making work together for 15 years. Their BAC Digital commission, gloria rehearsal (excerpt) shows what is relationally possible in performance with such collaborative tenure.

The 90-minute video consists of two large sections: a disjointed opening, followed by a comparatively unified closing. Filmed in a Baryshnikov Arts Center studio by Tatyana Tenenbaum and Colin Nusbaum, the pair begins on separate tracks, somewhere between a warmup and a performance.

Smith takes up space, which Lieber frames with the studio’s mirrors. Lieber takes things further, partnering with the mirrors, and arranging them into a cubist view of the studio, occasionally catching the videographers within reflections of reflections. They find each other, engaging in laborious partnering that meshes their bodies as one.

When Smith brings on a set of microphones and stands, tenderness turns invasive as the two probe themselves and each other with live mics, contributing to James Lo’s 3D sound design. The two trade incomplete renditions of familiar songs: Smith comments on the section as a whole with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Getting to Know You,” while Lieber’s use of Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” remarks on their increasingly nude interactions, erupting in a screaming fit. Smith closes the section belittling Lieber’s emotionality as “too much” as the lights shift to a gender-reinforcing hot pink.

After so much unraveling, the remainder of the work finds the two stuck in a durational jazzercise routine to a schizophrenic sound score that stretches Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” to epic proportions, interspersed with urban soundscapes, a colonial military march, and scant but equally evocative other sonic bits, to which the pair’s tempo remains resolute.

Once more the pink peters in as their simultaneous solos slowly melt into an awareness of and care for each other. They come to mirror each other and tangle as before, however more able to surrender to each other, as though having cleansed themselves of patriarchal toxins.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews Guzman

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