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Platform 2011: Body Madness, Part One: Absurdity & Wit
Curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor
Danspace Project, NYC
February 24–26, 2011
Reviewed by Cynthia Hedstrom
Arturo Vidich in Yvonne Meier's 2009 Scores. Photo by Ian Douglas. Courtesy Danspace.
The nonsensical title Brother of Gogolorez signals the fanciful roots of Yvonne Meier’s choreography. The premise for her new work is simple: The performers improvise responses to instructions Meier calls out from the side of the Danspace Project’s open space. Meier sheds her propensity for props and costumes and focuses candidly on music and movement. Unadorned, the dancers wear pants and T-shirts that look like they have been pulled from their home bureaus. A trio of jazz musicians (Dave Gisler on guitar, Christian Jaeger-Brown on drums and other percussive objects, and Michael Jaeger on sax and clarinet) take up one part of the large dance floor, leaving an L-shaped area with three rows of risers behind as a kind of horizontal runway.
The dancers—Jennifer Monson, Aki Sasamoto, Arturo Vidich, and Dau Yang—are consummate improvisers. Every cell in their bodies pulsates like a receptor. From grand sweeping gestures to tiny flicks, they dance on the edge of control. Monson brings a more nuanced spatial awareness to her improvisations, while the others work with impulse and abandon.
Meier challenges both the dancers and the musicians with body-mind-twisting instructions: “Small detail growing then shriveling back into a different small detail. Music the opposite.” With nothing hidden from the audience, we follow the translation of Meier’s words into performative choices. Twitches evolve into giant turns and strides, then back into small gestures. “100 percent loose to 100 percent tense,” leads Monson from the floppy to the nearly frozen. Sasamoto is lithe and springy for “cat on a hot plate.” Vidich clearly enjoys tripping and hurling himself through the air and around poles and mic stands in “one accident after another.” “Nasty floor dance” brings out erotic gestures and pulsating repetitions from the men. Vidich crosses the “fourth wall” to caress a couple of guys in the front row, prompting ripples of laughter from the audience.
Throughout, the music provides sonic washes and rhythmic counterpoint for the dancers. After Monson seductively transitions from “intricate nightmare into voguing”, Meier calls “the end.” In perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, the dancers protest—their first challenge back to Meier. She acquiesces and calls out “find yourself elegantly in a knot.” The audience is treated to a coda culminating in “find a miserable end.” Misery doesn’t come easily to these pleasurable dancers—impish Sasamoto contorts her limbs and spine; crazy smiles fleet across Vidich’s face; and Monson crawls under Dau Yang’s T-shirt to create a snuggly-looking humpback beast.