February 12, 2009

The Brooklyn Lyceum, NYC

February 12–March 1, 2009

Reviewed by Emily Macel


Photo by Angela Jimenes, courtesy Lava. Diana Y Greiner (blue), Molly Chanoff (yellow), and Lollo (red) dance a trazpeze trio in the evening-length

we become.


Imagine performing an evening-length dance on your hands. That’s essentially what you can expect from the Brooklyn-based all-female company LAVA.

The six women dance with calculated and skilled abandon. For their three-week run of we become, they cartwheeled and catapulted, walked on their hands, heaved their bodies onto mats, and balanced precariously on the hips and shoulders and backs of each other.

A site-specific installation on the walls of the Lyceum (by Nancy Brooks Brody) looked like an explosion of stars across the night sky. The choreography, by company founder Sarah East Johnson, was a collaboration with the dancers to an original score by singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon.

In one memorable segment, three women climbed onto a trapeze-like swing raised high above the stage. They squeezed themselves onto the trapeze bar, barely big enough for two, and began a trio, weaving their limbs together to counterbalance as one dancer dangled and another stood on the bar. They looked like children playing on a jungle gym, carefree in their movements, never fearing the fall.

Another childhood-like section was a game of follow the leader. Each dancer would bolt from a side of the stage and flip onto a tumbling mat then jump to her feet, or slink forward like a snake on her belly then rush towards the audience without hesitation. Each mini-solo (which was then mimicked by the company) exposed something about the dancer’s personality and spirit.


The partnering work showed how comfortable and trusting the performers are with one another. They use bodies for resistance and leverage. In one duet, a dancer climbs onto the shoulders of another, then leans her body forward and falls, from standing, towards the mats. As the audience gasps, the dancer rolls through her torso to avoid the impact and is quickly up and running again.

The most poignant parts of the evening were those in which the athleticism came to a halt and the dancers found moments of repose—a tender embrace, a meaningful look. It was at these times, which this viewer wanted more of, that the performance revealed its dance roots rather than just a series of acrobatic routines.