Baryshnikov Arts Center, NYC
October 13–17, 2009
Reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa
View Partially Obstructed. Photo by Anja Hitzenberger, Courtesy Gibney.
Gina Gibney’s troupe has reconfigured—from a women-only space to the inclusion of men. Its name has also slightly changed. But one thing remains constant: her exacting aesthetics. You can still rely upon her keen eye and ear as well as the imaginative sweep of her collaboration with talented, ambitious colleagues.
For View Partially Obstructed—given its world premiere at the Baryshnikov Arts Center—she has once again partnered with Ryan Lott (music), Kathy Kaufmann (lighting), and Lex Liang (visual design). Joshue Ott, creator of the superDraw software, contributes hand-drawn “cinematic visualizations”—in this case, projections of filaments and granules that multiply, flow, and spew all over the several movable, translucent screens making up Liang’s modular set. Along with Gibney’s smart, appealing quintet of dancers, these collaborators invite us to sink into a dynamic, sense-saturated world for about an hour.
At BAC, the audience sat in a traditional set-up: fixed rows, all neatly facing the front side of the performance space, the kind of arrangement that usually makes a viewer feel secure, even in charge. (Entertain me!) Liang’s screens, hanging from an overhead grid, served as receptors for Ott’s imagery but also marked off flimsy, easily changeable compartments that concealed or revealed dancers to varying degrees depending upon each audience member’s angle of view.
In one mysterious vignette, a row of tilted, crisscrossed screens created a series of vantage points for company newbie Michael Novak to slip behind as he spied on Janessa Clark, currently Gibney’s senior dancer and her most glorious. In another instance, I could watch sprightly Hannah Seidel through a screen that enveloped her entire body until, as seen from my angle, one of her feet finally poked free into open space.
Gibney’s choreography and stagecraft always seem to arise from an earnest thought or question. Movement manifests as free-flowing rumination-in-motion or dialogue-in-motion without a drive for final, definitive answers. In View, she worries the idea of human limitation, the selective nature of our experiences and perspectives, the inaccessibility of the unknowable and the unknown, sometimes, I suspect, spelled with a capital U. Her careful and considerate program notes do not state it outright, but all this mulling could be a conversation that a perfectionist might be having with herself, especially one facing the daily unknowables of integrating familiar company members with new ones, male dancers with female, and moving on in her art.
Gibney has crafted an attractive piece, but View‘s choreography seems to step back from the challenge of true, throbbing, go-for-it beauty. It comes off as a lightweight supportive grid for the far more variant, passionate elements of sound and sight, particularly the contributions of Lott and Ott. That Ott’s images finally go viral—swamping the space and everyone and everything in it—comes as no surprise.