Bravo for the 4 Women at the Joyce
Gutsy. Wild. Smart. Original. All four of these young choreographers fit those words: Andrea Miller, Camille A. Brown, Kate Weare, and Monica Bill Barnes. Each has her own unmistakable voice. Strong voices, spirited voices. Sure there are influences that are easy to see. Brown’s group pieces have heavy Ron K. Brown influence (she danced with him for years). Andrea Miller’s work is in the Ohad Naharin vein (she danced in his junior company in Israel). But everyone comes from somewhere.
After all the public worrying about the dearth of women choreographers, or the obstacles blocking the paths of women choreographers, this last week at the Joyce was cause for celebration. There have been attempts in the past to “nurture” women choreographer. Both Kate Weare and Camille Brown have been on the receiving end of different women-helping-women initiatives. But those attempts, in my memory, were nowhere near as successful as this programming. Sometimes it just doesn’t work to be too deliberate about these things.
The Joyce did a great thing by choosing four who have some notches o
n their belts. Another thing they all have is humor—which makes a big difference. It distances them from the reputation of earthbound solemnity in modern dance. Monica Bill Barnes can be really funny—giddy actually. Her
Another Parade makes miraculous fun out of James Brown’s Sex Machine song. Kate Weare has more of a sharp wit than belly-laugh humor. Camille Brown has expert comic timing that’s Broadway-worthy. And Andrea Miller’s sheer bizarreness can, well, if it doesn’t make you laugh, it can take your breath away.
Another plus is that these choreographers do NOT sprinkle their work with gratuitous split kicks, the way many of the crossover choreographers (those who are both ballet and modern) do.
They value expressiveness over obvious displays of virtuosity.
There were moments in these two evenings that I didn’t like witnessing at all, where I actually winced. And yet I still say kudos to the choreographers for doing it. One was the excessive backbends that looked painfully contortionist in
Wonderland, performed by Andrea Miller’s company, Gallim Dance. Another was when Kate Weare Company’s Leslie Kraus used her head to knock a guy (whose embrace had just given her pleasure) hard—HARD—in the abdomen, again and again.
I wouldn’t call any of the pieces master works (I felt I had a clear idea of their shortcomings but wont burden you with them here). But that’s fine cuz we’ll have time to watch these artists grow.
The best news is that all four are getting work and commissions. Just a few years ago the contemporary dance scene was dominated by men. John Jasperse, David Dorfman, Ronald K. Brown, and Tere O’Connor seemed to be getting all the work for mid-career modern dance artists. No matter how brilliant they all are, there should be room for women choreographers too. And now there is. Hosannahs!
And if you haven’t seen our list of living female choreographers, click
Wonderland by Andrea Miller. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy the Joyce