Saturday, May 23, 2015

Paloma McGregor builds her net...for us

Yesterday, I started thinking about how dance artists should market their genius for adaptability, for doing more with less. I've also been watching dance in fairly small spaces lately--not always a bad thing. Then Paloma McGregor brought Building A Better Fishtrap/Part 1 to BAAD!, premiering an evening-length version of work explored, over the last four years, in various venues. At BAAD!, this beautiful and moving ensemble piece is danced across a shallow strip of floor. It's a big burst of heart, and the dancers dance the hell out of it. If you sit in the front row, as I did, watch that your feet don't get trapped like fish.

McGregor, a native of St. Croix, draws spirit and imagery from, as she writes, "the vanishing fishing tradition of [her] 89-year old father." The work feels like a danced bedtime tale with dreamy happenings and archetypal, beloved characters who shapeshift form with ease. Indeed, like a cozy bedtime tale, it works best by leaving ample room for your own imaginings and feelings.

Empty chairs speak of separated or departed loved ones, the ever-present past. A "road" materializes when a young lady--bearing a modest, old-fashioned suitcase and a vision--strides forth while others hustle to pave the air with a row of chair seats continuously arranged below her advancing feet. As our loving storyteller, McGregor proffers not too much information, just enough--articles and spare gestures that suggest spearing, sorting, stirring; a wheel gently held aloft like a mystical symbol or used in the clever pantomiming of a family excursion; long spliced and braided cords that, when swept across the breadth of the space, evoke both the act of fishing and the foamy rush of Caribbean tide.

Now and again, a voice floats into the space, words suggesting identity and deep nourishment from which one can never be entirely separated. (I have been here before, maybe as a tree...The water is the Grand Queen of us all.) Still, dancers like Christine King and Audrey Hailes don't need words to connect when playful, girlish body language spins clear, universal "conversation" and inclusion.

That inclusion includes us, too, in a literal, ingenious and necessary way that I will not reveal here. Building A Better Fishtrap prepares and invites its audience, casting a spell that inspires trust. Last night, we fell into McGregor's welcome with gratitude.

Performances by Christine King, Audrey Hailes, Stephanie Mas, Erica Saucedo, Ricarrdo Valentine
Scenic Design: Paloma McGregor
Costumes: Kym Chambers
Live soundscore: LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs
Sound: Everett Saunders and Paloma McGregor
Text: Ebony Noelle Golden and Paloma McGregor

Building A Better Fishtrap/Part 1 continues tonight at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. For information, click here, and for tickets, click here.

McGregor continues to build her fishtrap. Over the next two years, her Building A Better Fishtrap project moves on to BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange and to sites in Red Hook and along the Bronx River. "With each iteration," McGregor writes, "the hope is to deepen the connections collaborators and audiences have with one another's legacies and the future of our embattled water spaces." Keep up with McGregor's progress at Angela's Pulse.

2474 Westchester Avenue, Bronx

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Maggie Black, 85

Maggie Black, Teacher to the Stars of Ballet and Modern Dance, Dies at 85
by Sam Roberts, The New York Times, May 21, 2105

New dances by Bartosik and Crossman at Abrons Arts Center

Above and below:
Scenes from Kimberly Bartosik's Ecsteriority4 (Part 2)
(photos: Ryutaro Mishima)

In a human environment, propulsion--willed by the self or coerced by outside forces--means you're bound to stray through someone's airspace, run up against another body and do damage. Kimberly Bartosik creates that supercharged, contested, treacherous space in her world premiere ensemble, Ecsteriority4 (Part 2), a trio for Dylan CrossmanMelissa Toogood and Marc Mann.

Crossman and Toogood, like Bartosik, had distinguished careers with Merce Cunningham. Guyana-born Mann has his own illustrious history, including Principal and Soloist roles in the Martha Graham Dance Company and work with Bill T. Jones and Susan Marshall. While handsomely sleek, nimble in force and timing, these three performers share a reckless drive in Ecsteriority4 (Part 2). They are up for anything.

Roughly a half-hour in length, the piece takes full advantage of the dramatic confines of a small, spare chamber, Abrons Arts Center's Black Box Experimental Theater. Bartosik's audience should sense the desperate impact of bodies against walls and the risk of those bodies colliding with the Fourth Wall, too. Believe me, we do.

It opens with a slice of chaos. At first, houselights dim only slightly, leaving watchers exposed. Bartosik's torrential soundscape, much of it, could be songbird tweets on Fast Forward. Don't imagine that would sound pretty at all. To the keening sound, dancers thrash against the black backdrop, careen wild splashes of movement around the floor.

This action had already begun when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a person quietly close the door to the space, closing us in. The timing seemed oddly late but perhaps deliberate and had real psychological power.

Gaze at Toogood's face. Her eyes reflect vulnerability, apprehension, perhaps shock, even while she stays in motion. But she not only stays in motion, she survives and with unexpected aggression, red in tooth and claw. At one point, the dancers engage in staged combat without real contact; the air takes the kicks and blows. Crossman ends up on the ground with what appears to be two victors astride him, closely eyeing each other. Who will haul away the spoils?

In a scene near the end, Toogood's eyes lock onto Mann's, staring him down, literally; he backbends away from his overpowering competitor. Toogood then looms over Crossman and deftly strips the shirt from his torso. As Crossman, in particular, repeatedly discovers, there's no easy way to break or scale the wall that contains this dance's violence and furtive sexuality. Yet everything ends with a decisive choice made by each combatant.

Above and below:
Scenes from Dylan Crossman's BOUND
(photos: Ryutaro Mishima)

Crossman's own world premiere, BOUND, opened the evening. (Both works are part of Abrons's new TRAVELOGUES dance series curated by Laurie Uprichard, former director of Danspace Project and of Ireland's Dublin Dance Festival). Of BOUND, a solo, Crossman writes that it "questions emotional (in)dependence--how real freedom may lie in recognizing what binds us, what we have already freed ourselves from, and what ties will always be with us."

To convey this might not absolutely require white cords anchored to the walls and attached to Crossman's ankle, elbow and back, but this design element works well, both visually--subdividing and moving against the murky space--and as a suggestion of living as someone or something else's marionette.

Interestingly, Crossman, like all three dancers in Bartosik's work, commands more agency than you might first realize. The first sign, for me, was in the care with which he positions his bound body--particularly, the firmly pointed feet--which seems a choice, though straight out of classical ballet. At times, he clearly aims to float and to fly, and he can and does release or re-position his attachments at will. He can lash his arms as if wielding weaponry, and he can push into the space and noisily claim it. Only the abruptness of this solo's end suggests one controlling tie that none will ever remove.

Bartosik and Crossman's shared program continues nightly through Saturday with performances at 8pm. There will be a post-performance talk with the artists, moderated by Uprichard, on Saturday, May 23.

For more information and tickets, click here. The box office opens a half-hour prior to the performance. All seating is general admission.

Black Box Experimental Theater
Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand Street (between Pitt and Willett Streets), Manhattan

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Upper Manhattan's dance advocates speak out

Look who's speaking out for dance!
Above: Nia Love
Below: Charmaine Warren

47 notable leaders and local residents of Upper Manhattan--including choreographer Nia LoveYuien Chin of Harlem One Stop, Mikki Shephard of the Apollo Theater, Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation--tell what they value about the art of dance in Dance/NYC’s NEW YORKERS FOR DANCE video campaign.

Here are a few samples from the series: 

All videos are now live on website and YouTube channel.

Prashant Bhargava, 42

Prashant Bhargava, Filmmaker of ‘Patang (The Kite),’ Dies at 42
by Sam Roberts, The New York Times, May 18, 2015

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