Agora de la danse
October 6–9, 2010
Reviewed by Philip Szporer
Stamos' torso, Pinto's legs in Cloak. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy Agora de la danse.
George Stamos infuses Cloak with a smooth interdisciplinarity, working video, sound, music, movement, and voice into the mix. The theme of transformation permeates, inviting questions about hybridity and the fracturing of the self. It’s a stacked proposition that succeeds in fits and starts.
Earlier this year, the Montreal-based dancer/choreographer showed a preliminary version of the work at Baryshnikov Arts Center. Over time, the piece has evolved from a solo to a trio and now a well-suited duet, in which Stamos pairs beautifully with dancer extraordinaire Luciane Pinto.
The darkly lit Cloak opens with Stamos reading a scripted text, a kind of reflective inner monologue made public (he would have benefited from nuanced line readings). It then segues into a random, amusing conversation between Pinto (who has been munching carrots) and Stamos, his voice altered through a processor, allowing him to “morph” into different characters. Next, the duo flows through an interesting sequence of repeated, floor-based rolls with a clearly articulated, gentle, and pleasurable rhythmic quality, set to the live, recorded, and manipulated sounds of a sigh or a whack of the mic.
By turns whimsical and edgy, Stamos smartly addresses anonymity and the identity card in an episode where he dons about four layers of white head stockings. Using a simple marker, Pinto scribbles eye and smiley-mouth lines on the material. As the first mask is cast aside, another blank slate is revealed. Ultimately each layer is removed.
In an inventive use of video (by Dayna McLeod), either Pinto or Stamos stands behind a suspended screen, with only their legs showing—on one occasion, Pinto doing some pretty fierce ballet legwork. Each merges with projections of the other’s upper body, or at one point a metallic alien-appearing creature.
The problem with Cloak is its sketchiness. Ideas become diluted as the piece ensues. A section with the performers costumed in distorted black ninja bunny costumes comes and goes; the videos themselves lose their punch through repetition (a technical glitch the night I saw the performance is noted but didn’t alter my perspective); and Tomas Furey’s original electroacoustic score is a lulling wash of sound.
Stamos exploits a multi-tracked and fragmented structure, but his strongest material loses impact. He never fully flavors other sections, and, at least for now, masks his ambitions.
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.