Hedwig Dances

June 26, 2009

Hedwig Dances
Joyce Soho, NYC

June 26–28, 2009

Reviewed by Siobhan Burke


Justin Deschamps and Michel Rodriguez in Andrea Miller’s
Dust. Photo by Steven Schreiber, Courtesy Hedwig Dances.


This Chicago-based company, which launched its 25th anniversary season here in New York, boasts eight strong, sinewy dancers. But it took a gutsy choreographer to bring out the gritty side of such a graceful, earnest bunch. Sandwiched between two mild works—a 2007 piece by artistic director Jan Bartoszek and a premiere by Havana native Marianela Boan—was a visceral offering from Andrea Miller, who punctured an otherwise tidy evening with messiness of the best kind.

Miller’s new Dust (for Jack) paired Justin Deschamps and Michel Rodriguez in a raw, grappling duet. Wrestling each other with love-hate desperation, they could have been brothers or lovers or best friends. Undisguised effort and fatigue—plodding footsteps, heavy breathing—made their struggles human. Partnering, a skill so often described as “seamless,” was deliberately ripped at the seams.

To the somber piano and shrill violin of Arvo Pärt’s music, the men entered running at top speed, circling the shadowy space. One dancer held the other in his grasp, using one hand to cover his partner’s eyes and the other to clutch his shoulder, as if blinding and protecting him at the same time. Interactions like this, in which the aggressor was also a source of support, were everywhere in Dust. When Deschamps stamped on the foot of a prostrate Rodriguez, it was a violent gesture but revitalizing, too, lifting his partner from splayed to standing in a single sweep. In the end, when Deschamps disappeared behind the scrim, Rodriguez’ forlorn expression showed us just how close a companion he had lost.

Bartoszek’s Night Blooming Jasmine, for three women and three men, opened the program on a solemn, contemplative note. Carol Genetti’s score enveloped their spiraling movement—which sailed between weightless and grounded—in its minor-key vocal harmonies and layered strings. Translucent costumes by Tetyana Martyanova shrouded bodies in what seemed like a thin mist. At times, though, Night Blooming crossed from quietly mournful into melodramatic, heavy with a sense of unfulfilled longing.

Boan’s Stampede purported (in the press release) to “reflect on surviving obstacles imposed by society.” But the work was not so much a reflection as a very literal treatment of “obstacle imposed.” Four yellow posts (the kind you might see at a construction site), linked by retractable caution tape, formed barriers that the dancers negotiated in clever, athletic ways. Despite their dexterity—and the continuous reconfiguration of the set piece into square, zig-zag, runway—the theme of entrapment quickly wore thin, and Boan left us to be simply entertained.