Gina Bashour and LoMa Familar in Leite’s Autopsy
Photo by Denis Gillingwater, courtesy Ashleigh Leite
Joyce Soho, NYC
March 9–11, 2006
Reviewed by Karen Hildebrand
A quartet of women moves in strict formation to a blaring punk beat. Wearing leg-revealing tunics, they hinge around on their heels in lock-kneed second position. Occasionally turning to the audience to lip sync a phrase, the women could be from a music video. Angular and regimented against a stark white stage, they inhabit a landscape so cool, it’s cold.
In Ashleigh Leite’s Autopsy, movement is precise and body parts are perfectly delineated. Hips jut, rib cages shudder. Even the eyes are scripted: Warily, they look over shoulders and to the corners of the space. Leite’s four female performers are well trained and rehearsed, but it’s hard not to become fixated on the riveting presence of the choreographer herself. She danced with the Stephen Petronio Dance Company for eight years, until 2005, and began to develop and show her own work while serving as Petronio’s assistant director.
The formation segment ends with the arrival of a fifth dancer, and the ensemble breaks into duos and trios with multiple entrances and exits. Activity builds to a frenzy. The dancers jerk and flail. They flop to the floor as if their legs have given out, then bounce right back up. The section ends with all five splayed on the floor, panting audibly. One woman’s head shifts. Another’s torso unbends. Blackout.
When the lights come up, the dancers return in shredded surgical gowns that reveal glimpses of torso and breast. With the exception of the costumes and a solo by Leite, this part seems to introduce little that is new—the movement has become tedious. And what is going on with these characters who wander like zombies among the audience?
A return to the spent-body scene gets the attention of fading viewers. Again the panting, again the random involuntary relaxing of a limb after death. The repetition is effective. The sound cuts out with a zip; fade to dark.