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The Kitchen, NYC
March 16–19, 2011
Reviewed by Siobhan Burke
Maggie Thom, Jimena Paz, and Marilyn Maywald in Not Entirely Herself. Photo by Paula Court. Courtesy The Kitchen.
Vicky Shick’s Not Entirely Herself is one of those dances that imprints itself further into your memory, rather than fading away, in the hours and days after you’ve seen it. Its stories may not become any clearer—you could read a thousand narratives into its interactions and encounters, which flicker into existence and dissolve as quickly—but its poetic images linger, and keep you questioning: What just happened?
The set, by Barbara Kilpatrick, Shick’s longtime collaborator, holds many meanings in itself, suggesting replicas and double natures. Like a theater within a theater, a small raised platform occupies center stage, while upstage right, a voluminous silvery curtain facilitates the comings and goings of fancifully dressed dancers and curious props. (Kilpatrick also made the costumes.) Over on stage left, two white robes take shape from a long shimmering stream of fabric; one is suspended up high, billowing down into the other, which is draped over a statue of a human figure. Is this a soul escaping its body? One part of the self observing, guiding, straying from another?
Tempting as it is to interpret, Not Entirely Herself might best be viewed simply by losing yourself in the whimsy of Kilpatrick’s designs and the intricacies of Shick’s choreography, which threads through her dancers’ bodies like a tendrilled vine.
The first two-thirds of the piece is a trio for Marilyn Maywald, Jimena Paz, and Maggie Thom, who share a sultry beauty and lucid command of the movement. Clad in a black tulle dress (Paz), military jacket and backless skirt (Thom), and something leaf-embroidered (Maywald), they seduce the eye with their preening gaits, fluttering hands, circling fists, and explorations of folding and unfolding the body. Chloë Z Brown’s rich lighting creates startling interruptions. The gorgeously eclectic sound design, by Elise Kermani, often seems to play from far away—now a tango, now a marching band—hinting at worlds beyond the one directly in front of us.
While the ambiguities of this world are part of its appeal, the underlying narrative, fractured though it may be, can feel frustratingly opaque, and the relationships difficult to believe in. Maybe it’s the theatricality of the costumes, the deliberateness of certain vignettes, or the sometimes unreadable expressions on the dancers’ faces (is she sad, or just really focused?) that leave us seeking a more concrete “why.” Why, for example, does Paz stand atop a tiny wooden chair, squeeze an orange into a glass, and drink the juice? Why does Thom earnestly display photographs of the other two dancers? When one woman whispers into another’s ear, you can identify with the third—so close to understanding, but not in on the secret.
In a coda of sorts, two more seasoned dancers—Shick and Neil Greenberg—take the place of the three young women. While doing little to elucidate what came before, their relationship, with its subtle humor, seems instantly more natural, more candid. Perhaps it’s a matter of age; well into their careers, these performers may just have an easier time of being entirely themselves.
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