February 6, 2009

And now for something completely different...

These are a few of my favorite things. Raindrops on windows and fresh-shaven faces, fake versions of Vegas and art in bad places. Six grey-clad dancers tied up with strings; these are a few of my favorite things.
It's been a while since we've had rain. We've had snow and ice, but not rain. It's been bitter cold the last couple of days, getting down into the teens, and I find I've pretty much acclimated to running in the 20s. But tomorrow will be in the 40s and Sunday - the Bronx Half - will hit the mid-50s! If the morning times are even in the mid-40s, I'm going to wear shorts to the race.
I shaved today for no good reason at all. I hate shaving, but I love the result, especially if I've waited three or four days. The best results come with a razor that's been used between 3 and 12 twelve times - no more, no less. I've been using products from The Art of Shaving and the results almost make shaving worth it.
Let's talk about primetime in the daytime. TNT is for housewives, basement dwellers, and the unemployed. Whoops, that last category is sounding suspiciously like me. I don't watch much daytime TV - I try to catch NY1 in the mornings, but lately, I've been glued to Las Vegas, the show about the fictitious Montecito Hotel in Sin City. It has some great characters and has employed a cast of actors one might have thought were past their prime, but have impressed me nonetheless, including James Caan and Tom Selleck. The cast also features a bunch of good-looking upo-and-comings who are worth keeping an eye on. Anyway, if this were on at night, I'd be a lot happier.
Dance is not the end-all and be-all of civilization, but it is one of the great fine arts; at leat it is when in the right hands. To be frank, there's a lot of bad dance out there. And the line between what's good and what's bad and what's merely so-so is very fine. It's also, traditionally, in the eye of the beholder.

I have a lot of experience with dance. I've seen the best and worst NY has to offer and I've lit a lot of what's in-between. Tonight, I went to see Program G of the Cool New York Dance Festival at White Wave in DUMBO. Eight pieces of considerably variable quality. It's all modern, of course.

The first was Roof Running A Through C by Jessica Bonenfant and Sara Greenfield. I will profess I am partial to this duo, as I've lit a few of Jessica's evening-length works. Her pieces are always interesting, even if one doesn't understand them at first. Usually, you kind of "get it" by the end of the evening - even the more abstract stuff. She loves to combine props, costumes, images, and video with her movement. (More on that later). I'd like to see the whole piece that Roof Running is an excerpt of.

Mediterraneo by Amos Pinhael was better than I expected. I am not a fan of solo pieces. I like very few of them; and the number drops when the piece is performed by the choreographer. This is dangerous territory, as the piece can easily slip into self-indulgent crap. To be sure, there are a lot of solos I have loved, but I can count on one hand the number of solos danced by the choreographer that I liked. Mediterraneo might be one of the good ones. It is just a man and a conch shell, but his movement is precise and inventive. The conch is a fairly sensuous item. And though, Amos' movement was in no way sexual, the resultant work is positively lewd at times. I enjoyed it very much.

Me vs. You, by Lynsey Peisinger, was a very enjoyable boxing/wrestling spoof. Comedic, light-hearted, and very physical. Very good.

I'll Take The Blame, by Jonathan Ciccarelli, was unfortunately one of those self-indulgent pieces of crap I'm so disenchanted with. I didn't see what the piece was about, what it was driving at, what it was trying to inspire. In fact, it was so uninspiring, I'm having a hard time remembering it at all. Yawn.

Collection of Shorts, by Andrea Gise, utilized four dancers, three sections, and an outstanding musical duo of guitarist and vocalist. (Matthew Lucas and Alexis Bronkovic) I'd like to see those two do a gig at a low-lit little bar somewhere. I'd come out to see just them! I am a huge fan of live music in dance theatre. It allows a level of interplay and spontaneity that canned music just can't deliver. The addition of the dancers to their music was very nice - lyrical and expressive, as you would hope modern dance to be; each section with its own tone and tenor, but holding with the other two sections as part of a whole. All in all, a well-crafted dance piece, of which Ms. Gise can be proud.

Holy Bones, by Mary-Clare McKenna. Holy shit. I can't believe I watched the whole thing. It was insufferable. It might have been meant to be a meditation in movement, but it just ... lacked meaning. You know your piece is in trouble when your props have no discernable meaning, your costume looks like hell, the music is more interesting than your movement, and the whole piece looked better under the dim lighting cues than the bright ones. Of the eight pieces tonight, this is the only one I think was a mistake to include in the festival.

Wake up...excerpt from The Goblin Boy, by Rob Davidson. Apparently, self-indulgent can apply to duets as well. This might have been good as the full piece, which I understand is the choregraphed version of a fairy tale Rob himself wrote (and published?), but as an excerpt it was just bad. The costumes really yanked me out of what could have been a beautiful piece of choreography; even a beautiful evocation of love-across-the-tracks, but the costumes were laughably high-schoolish in design and execution. More than once, I feared for the safety of the female dancer, Brittany Waldron, who played a leaf - or maybe it was a fairy. As for the music - well, if you're going to go to the trouble of writing a story, illustrating it, publishing it, turning it into an evening-length piece of dance theatre, and paying a costume designer to... well, the least you could do is commission some original music. Sorry, Rob - back to the drawing board.

The evening was capped off by Caught in a Shoelace and used six dancers. I rather liked this piece; it seemed to make a commentary on social interaction. Unfortunately, Sasha Soreff's costumes don't do anything for her piece - I found the dancer in jeans quite distracting. But overall the piece was interesting to watch, even if the ending is predictable. This is one piece that used its props to GREAT effect, the props being long loops of shoelace that bind and tangle the dancers together.

And we're back to Bonenfant's Rooftop Running. The point I want to make here is that Jessica is a master of ineraction between the body and the object - between movement and prop. Unlike other choreographers, her costumes aren't really costumes - in fact, they sometimes fail spectacularly at that end - but are actually props. The are USED and ABUSED in the course of a piece - coming off, being put back on, being swapped between dancers, used as scenery, etc. Likewise, she treats actual props as costumes oftentimes. Her use of images and video are also prop-oriented - they are never merely an illustration, but an intrinsic part of the choreography. I have even seen her use other dancers as props and, in at least one case in a previous piece, has used the lighting as a prop. (As a rule, Jessica's dances could as easily be done under daylight as theatrical lights. When she has a lighting note, I LISTEN, because it's IMPORTANT.) So to see her excerpt tonight, stripped down at it's most bare, was a mini-study in her vocabularly of props. The piece starts with Jessica and Sara in their underwear on stage. They then pull out costumes and make a whole section out of the struggle of dressing. Then there's an entire rooftop running section, then they undress and the piece ends. That's a very inadequate description of what goes on in her piece. You'll just have to see it for yourself.


Michelle said...

Wow Chris,
What a great review!! I felt as if i was right there with you!!


andrea gise said...

so gratifying to hear you enjoyed the piece!