A couple weeks ago, Sara Green ’13 presented Black Woman’s America, the first installment of her senior work at Bennington. Black Woman’s America was an installation-style performance, with interactive written components as well as video clips, a small library, visual design, and three solo performances by Corina Dalzell ’13, Anna Kroll ’14, and Sara. In observing and engaging with Black Woman’s America, I was struck by how effectively Sara had given me the tools to participate in an exploration of a demographic I am not a part of.
Batsheva Dance Company in Tabula Rasa by Ohad Naharin, photo Gadi Dagon
Ohad Naharin’s Tabula Rasa and Sharon Eyal/Gai Behar’s Lost Cause begin the same way, with one dancer, alone (or seemingly so) onstage. This choice seems to send a clear message: consider the individual. Consider the dancer as a single unit, as an independent being. Remember, even during the most regimented unison phrases and interlocked partnering sequences to come, that all this is being performed by unique human beings.
The Batsheva Ensemble, which serves as a sort of junior wing to Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company, is an internationally-sourced group of blazing, vigorous daredevils. Tabula Rasa contains mesmerizing how-did-she-get-up-there partnering and phrases that have the dancers floating for a moment inches from the floor before crashing down prone, and I did not see a moment of hesitation in Wednesday evening’s performance. These dancers are not waiting or holding back: their moment has come, they have arrived, and they give everything they have to the choreography, which in my opinion is some of Naharin’s finest. It occurred to me during one large ensemble section that had different groups of dancers executing different phrases, spatially interspersed amongst each other, that when working with so many bodies and so much movement, the phrases themselves need not be that complex. But they are. Naharin cuts no corners, cheats nowhere; every potentially unseen detail on the often-flooded stage is intentional and given its due weight and time. Chaotic patterns give way to structured patterns and shifts of direction happen in impossible blinks. Movement motifs appear–a particular phrase throwing arms and legs from side to side recurs, some spatial patterns emerge as particularly dominant–but the dynamic performances and crisp transitions keep Tabula Rasa surprising, even when we have watched every member of the company slowly rock from side to side across the entire stage.
I questioned the order of the program before even seeing Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s collaborative contribution, Lost Cause, which did not bode well. Naharin is a tough act to follow (in fact I’m not sure I’ve ever seen his work placed anything but last on a mixed bill), but I saw and very much enjoyed Eyal’s choreography two summers ago at Jacob’s Pillow and so I particularly regret how little I liked this piece. A couple of the dancers, Keren Laurie-Pardes and Mariko Kakizaki in particular, seem well suited to Eyal’s movement vocabulary, and most of the solo sections that emerge from ensemble sweeps of the stage are appealingly bizarre and sometimes endearingly awkward. But the overall feel is unpleasantly cold and a little formulaic, relying on pantomimed gestures to draw chuckles from the audience and familiar choreographic tropes (okay, everyone walk back and forth in a “wash”; now we’re going to do a robotic phrase in unison…) to engage the energy onstage. Laurie-Pardes’ final solo is undeniably great, her gangly limbs and spine capturing a tense, creaturely desperation, her gaze unwaveringly pinned outwards to the audience. I’m actually a little glad that I preferred the solos in this work to the larger sections, as I remember preferring the reverse in the last works of Eyal’s I saw, and it’s interesting to see the choreographer experimenting with her approach.
Lost Cause probably warrants a second viewing, and for its own sake I’d rather not see it after the heartbreakingly excellent Tabula Rasa. Instead I will look forward to seeing more of Eyal and Behar’s work this summer at Jacob’s Pillow on their own (newly formed) company, L-E-V.
Batsheva Dance Company in Tabula Rasa by Ohad Naharin, photo Gadi Dagon
Dear readers, some of you may have gathered that I have snuck away from dreary Northeast winter and set myself up in Tel Aviv to spend a balmy month studying dance at the Suzanne Dellal Centre and working on a portfolio of creative writing. For those who are interested in hearing about my adventures with gaga, the city, Israeli dining, and cultural immersion, I’ve been writing a blog. The name is a nod to my favorite mispronunciation of my own middle name, Peretz (which I did not realize was tagged an Israeli name until the El Al security team questioned me about it…but that’s another story).
Shalom from the great unknown!
Shabbat morning yoga session at a kibbutz I visited. See if you can spot yours truly.
At Bennington College, I co-founded and co-run an organization called the Bennington Movement Collective. The Movement Collective is the product of many conversations had with my dear friend and artistic collaborator Corina Dalzell regarding how students at Bennington take advantage of existing opportunities to be involved in dance and the movement arts, and what was missing. We created a forum in which students who are not enrolled in movement courses or are unable to participate in student projects can still meet weekly or drop in occasionally for workshops, discussions, film screenings, or what have you.
One of my projects for the Movement Collective this term has been to increase our use of social media and online identity. I’ve been writing and curating guest posts for our blog, which is part of the reason why my own blog has gone unattended. I’ll share here part of a piece I wrote in response to Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal at BAM last month; click on the link to read the rest.
pina bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal: an army of limb-y creatures
in poetry, we try to distinguish between the scenario and the about-ness of a poem, and often begin our discussions by identifying what is OCCURRING and what is BEING SAID.
what OCCURS in …como el musguito en la piedra, ay, si si si… is perhaps a deranged dinner party on an iceberg.
what is BEING SAID feels limitless. the work explores relationships (and within those, vulnerability, aggression, teasing, loss, longing, flirtation…), ideas of beauty and presentation (i can’t stop thinking about the woman applying makeup while the man pours out a bottle of water over her head), the joy of movement itself (remember in the movie PINA when that one man does the movement during the piece with the rock and then everyone joins in?)…and more. (click to read the rest)
It’s early, and I still have a lot to say about things happening during the summer, but I’m having a hard time not thinking about the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fall/Winter Dance lineup.
Starting in September: Jonah Bokaer x Anthony McCall. Well, I’m having a hard time not thinking about that because I’m currently employed by Mr. Bokaer under the umbrella of his dance nonprofit, Chez Bushwick. But I got involved with this organization because I think Jonah’s work is excellent. You can read my review of his engagement at Jacob’s Pillow last summer here. I’m very curious to see what he and Mr. McCall (who is best known for his “solid light” installations) create for the new BAM Fisher.
Then the next week, Nora Chipaumire. Nora is a frequent guest at Bennington College, and while I’ve never studied with her, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with her and to see her work. She once commented that she thinks dance is a visual art, as much as it is a performing art, and I think this is reflected in her choreography. The way she works with tempo, tableau, and design elements goes beyond pure movement and into something almost statuesque.
Hofesh Shechter Company in “Uprising”, photo Ben Rudick
Within a week of each other are performances by Hofesh Shechter company and Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal. I’m obviously not going to spend many October weekends in Vermont. I’ve seen Shechter’s work, both on his company and as performed by students of the School at Jacob’s Pillow, but (as far as I can remember) I’ve never seen Bausch’s work performed live.
I absolutely LOVED Lucy Guerin at Jacob’s Pillow two summer ago (when her company performed “Structure & Sadness”, a memorial of sorts to a deadly bridge collapse that incorporated the most truly interactive set I’ve ever seen in a dance performance). I think she is so smart and so spot on in terms of the issues she seems to be reckoning with (choreographic, social, historical, etc.). The concept of “Untrained” seems like a no-brainer, and I have no doubt that she has constructed it with grace and wit.
Aurélien Bory and Miguel Gutierrez both look clever. I have little interest in Trey McIntyre and, after a scarring experience several years ago, even less in Grupo Corpo, but I’m sure they’ll round out the season well.
Vertigo Dance Company in “Mana”, photo by Gadi Dagon
This summer has found me in Bushwick, Brooklyn, working for choreographer Jonah Bokaer and his nonprofit organization Chez Bushwick. It’s a return for me in some ways, yet I’m still finding my footing in this city.
I have seen a few performances so far this summer, and while they’re all too far behind me by now to write much of anything about, I thought I would offer a brief recount:
David Gordon’s “The Beginning of the End of the” at Joyce SoHo. Mr. Gordon was a visiting professor at Bennington College last spring, where I had the pleasure of studying and speaking about my work with him. I enjoyed this piece, especially as framed by the principles of composition he discussed in his classes, and drew some inspiration from it for an upcoming project of my own.
Beth Gill’s “Electric Midwife” at Pier 15. Hypnotic, deadly precise, framed perfectly by the harbor and complemented exquisitely by a rapidly traveling moon, but good lord there’s nothing like a screaming toddler to ruin a good performance.
Noa Wertheim’s “Mana” performed by Vertigo Dance Company at Jacob’s Pillow. Devastatingly gorgeous performers fighting their way through occasionally brambly choreography. The ensemble sections were finely honed and the stage design worked wonders.
LeeSaar the Company’s “Fame”, also at Jacob’s Pillow. The performances were so utterly winning and most of the choreography so clear that I longed for a little more structural complexity, but certainly enjoyed everything I saw.
Boom Bat Gesture Performance Group’s “Screen Eyed Baby Ice” at the Center For Performance Research. According to the creators, all of whom graduated from Bennington College in the last couple years, this performance was constructed using a compilation video from several rehearsals which they edited and then learned. I’m completely fascinated by this process but will admit that the product was at times disorientingly disconnected. I look forward to seeing how this (and their other work) develops.
Boom Bat Gesture
After an exciting couple of years writing dance criticism for The Rogovoy Report and the former award-winning publication Berkshire Living, it is time for me to move on to new adventures.
This decision was made with the utmost respect for The Rogovoy Report and with appreciation for the opportunities I have been granted. Several factors prompted this decision, not the least of which is that I am no longer a resident of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, the area which The Rogovoy Report focuses on in its reportage.
I intend to continue writing dance criticism, and hope to report to you soon from a new position at a new publication. Until then, you may find all my writing right here on Rogovoy Footnotes.