Armitage Gone! Dance

January 22, 2008

Armitage Gone! Dance

The Joyce Theater, NYC

January 22–27, 2008

Reviewed by Nancy Dalva

Who are the Connoisseurs of Chaos? Karole Armitage and her collaborators, David Salle (credited with the set, which is a cinematic backdrop with its own production team); Peter Speliopoulos (the costume design); and Clifton Taylor (the dramatic, through-a-glass-darkly lighting design)? The Armitage Gone! dancers? They are Megumi Eda (the first among equals), Frances Chiaverini, Mei-Hua Wang, Leonides D. Arpon, Matthew Branham, and the towering William Isaac, who partners each and all as if they were the merest wisps.

    As ever with Armitage, the steps and partnerships are deconstructed and recombinant. Her performers wear almost invisible little foot socks that let them slip, but appear naked. And that is just how the movement is: slippery and exposed, with the women’s legs like calipers, tracing a calligraphy of erotics. Yet lurking underneath this surface was a visible structure: a center that would not hold. Repeatedly, the dancers came together in a circle, only to separate. Sometimes they linked hands and unwound themselves in Balanchinian twining. Once, they touched hands the way basketball players do before running onto the court. At first these unison moments gave way to duets; then to a quartet, some solos, and so forth.

    Behind them were black and white projections: first surrealist vortexes, which did not pull the dancers in, but clearly had the power to suck people away; then some dreamy images of a window with curtains blowing, and of a winter wood. At one point, the dancers sat down and, as if by magic, seemed transported into the scene, with the winding black road on the screen their magic carpet. Another captivating if fleeting convergence was with the music: Morton Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field (1981), marvelously performed live by cellist Felix Fan and pianist Andrew Russo. The score is spare, given to refusals, but it has surprising and sudden rushes of lyricism. Into one of these Armitage tucked a duet, and suddenly everything made sense: the blue and grey chromatics of the leotards echoed the chromatics of the music, and the dancers echoed the notes. Voila! Despite the title, there was nothing really chaotic going on at all.