Dance by Neil Greenberg

April 6, 2005

Neil Greenberg’s Partial View at Dance Theater Workshop.

Photo by Julie Lemberger

Dance by Neil Greenberg
Dance Theater Workshop, New York, NY

April 6–16, 2005

Reviewed by Susan Yung


Neil Greenberg’s Partial View is an experimental laboratory rich with movement, patterning, and perceptual games. His choreography seems simplistic at first, almost childlike in its awkwardness, as performed in an opening solo by Greenberg and a subsequent foursome of Colin Stilwell, Luke Miller, Paige Martin, and Justine Lynch. Greenberg stiffly placed his legs like a spider, chasséing quickly, shoulders locked stiffly. Such blunt phrases alternated with more languid moves—arms indulgently swept aside to balance a hovering leg, or a shoulder stretched to extrude a line. Even basic moves are embellished or given a baroque twist, such as thumbs pointing out, hands splayed and fingers waving like anemone tendrils, or arms skewed out of line in a note of visual dissonance. After awhile, it disassembled into a carefully de-trained technique.

At first glance, John Jesurun’s video also seemed fairly straightforward. Images of high-impact natural or man-made forces—trees undergoing a nuclear blast, a tornado vortex, artillery fire at night—mixed in pairs on the backdrop with closed-circuit video of the performance at hand. Several cameras beamed close-ups of the dancers’ arms or feet, with other dancers visible in the distance. Then the dancers moved the cameras midway downstage, pointed to the center. Suddenly we saw the same phrase prismatically—live and from two sides. A dancer stared at us from the screen, but she was actually glaring away from us, toward the camera. Perceptions scrambled rapidly and engagingly with the addition of a bird’s-eye shot.

The sound and lighting provided exceptionally strong foundations for Partial View. Zeena Parkins’ score set an ambiance that shifted from celestial to skittery, couched in a plinking xylophone, plucked harp, vibraphone, and other exotic instruments. Michael Stiller’s noninvasive lighting bathed the dancers in an aura; “blue-outs” smartly marked scene shifts; and the closing pewter-toned light seemed to have actual weight.

Greenberg’s intellectual approach to dancemaking made for a rewarding evening resulting in visual and kinetic crescendos. He and his collaborators posed many rhetorical questions, answered them, and then asked more, engaging the audience in a wordless but rousing dialogue.

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