Corbin Dances

June 22, 2006

Joyce Soho, NYC

June 22–25, 2006

Reviewed by Susan Yung


CorbinDances emanated a palpable sense of affection and community, conveyed as much by what happened between the dances as during them. Prior to the show’s start, the 13 dancers warmed up onstage—not self-consciously doing tricks to impress the audience but comparing notes on passages or exchanging hugs. And toward the close of the program, Corbin sat at a desk where he had been reciting lines, casually sipping a beverage, plainly beaming in awe of his own dancers.

This spirit permeated the premiere of Bathing Jeff, Part I, about the death from AIDS of Jeff Wadlington, who, like Corbin, danced with Paul Taylor. Corbin described visiting Wadlington, who was in a coma, as the performers acted out certain (but not all) scenes in detail, down to a bed with pink sheets and the haunting post-mortem bathing of the body. By giving us a firsthand, literal telling of the ordeal, Corbin brought home the personal and broad devastation of AIDS. But while the acted-out depiction conveyed the tragedy, it lacked art’s poetic ability to transcend realism and tell a story through metaphor.

In the well-crafted Forever (1996), Elizabeth Dement and John Byrne portrayed a couple in a listless relationship, spelled out in rote, repeating gestures. Restlessness built to a passionate breakout—running circles widened to fill the stage, and leaps incrementally expanded the space skyward. The pair’s banal, daily interactions accumulated into a precious critical mass.

Seven dancers in rehearsal clothes sat against the wall on spotlit cubes in Partly Cloudy (2005). They gestured madly, movements and claps sometimes coinciding, mostly not. Corbin rolled a shoulder and his body followed the lead; classical ports de bras branched into more extravagant positions. The movement’s speed and grandeur gained momentum as the sound collage by Marsha Groethe crescendoed. The dancers wove chaotically, snapping into a line and spinning out again in all directions.

By intent or coincidence, influences of William Forsythe were noted: rehearsal clothes and socked feet, assigning movements to the alphabet, isolating body parts, and an occasional sense of chaos. Mixed with some Taylor movements, it is Corbin’s own particular blend.