(left to right) Aaron Swartzman, Bianca Cabrera, Scott Davis, and Dustin Haug in
Photo by Laurent Ziegler, courtesy Lingo dancetheater
Joyce SoHo, New York, NY
January 20, 2006
Reviewed by Cynthia Hedstrom
The opening of Relatively Real: Who do you think you are? takes viewers inside the slippery process of getting started. Seattle-based choreographer KT Niehoff, a dreamy, open-faced dancer, begins alone, with several rolling screens angled behind her. A disembodied voice asks, “Are you ready?” Niehoff’s long legs and arms float into extensions and swivels. As she rolls onto the tips of her tennis shoes, her alter ego chimes in: “This is just dancing. This isn’t what I’m looking for.”
There are more false starts. A video follows Niehoff escaping down the street. Animation sequences of fluid stick figures sidetrack the live performance. A dancer wanders in, convinced that the show is over, and urges the audience to head home. Then, as if through the back door, five dancers slip in between the screens, and we’re off.
Large sweeping gestures seem to issue from deep within the dancers’ bodies. Off-kilter locomotive movements lead to duets with balanced lifts, drawing on the techniques of contact improvisation. Close attention is paid to detail and gesture. A woman arches back over a man curled on the floor, while he gently fingers the folds of her white brocade coat. Hands briefly lift towards another’s face before the dancers arc to the floor and up again. Then, out of the blue, the tone shifts to comic satire. The guys, jokey and dressed in padded tees, throw themselves through the air, riding on pure testosterone, while gals in miniskirts and pink vinyl high boots prance, giggle, or cry. The women seem to own the space, despite the male display of prowess.
Just as suddenly, like flipping channels, the mode switches back to sincerity. In an emotionally touching duet, a man and woman, physically separated by a wall of screens, dance to (and with) each other. The screens are pushed back and waves of movement pass through the ensemble, with chains of extensions, spiraling lifts, then pauses, and the final residue of a vibrating body.
Adam McCollom’s score accentuates the mood with musical styles from the blues to funky beats, finally shifting to long tones and delicate rhythmic patterns as the dance slowly subsides.
Niehoff and her athletic ensemble take us on a journey, filled with loose ends, false starts, and rambling ventures, but they’re an engaging gang to hang with for the ride. See www.lingodance.com.