Baryshnikov Arts Center, NYC
October 9–12, 2008
Reviewed by Emily Macel
Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
Miguel Anaya and Sonja
Kostich in Annie-B Parson’s
The Snow Falls in the Winter.
When OtherShore premiered at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in October, the packed audience was filled with eager eyes for the company’s debut. Mikhail Baryshnikov himself was there to support his former White Oak Dance Project member Sonja Kostich; and Trisha Brown was there to watch her former dancer, Brandi Norton.
All three pieces were world premieres: small earthquakes along the way by Stacy Matthew Spence; Lift by Edwaard Liang; and The Snow Falls in the Winter, created by Annie-B Parson and co-directed by Paul Lazar.
As the audience filtered in and took their seats, four dancers lounged and slowly shifted positions on one side of the stage. When projections of clouds began to drift across the asymmetrical pillars at the rear, the dancers—Kostich, Norton, Robbie Cook, and Miguel Anaya—moved to the sounds of ambient and at times percussive violin distortion, a live, original score by Cornelius Dufallo. Eventually the pacing picked up, and the dancers were flying—like birds, like planes, like insects, like particles. The piece provided a meditative start to the evening.
But Liang’s work startled the audience out of the peaceful meditation. Lift began with four dancers at a table. An eerie painting (by Mark Kostabi) hung overhead with two figures entangled in what could be either a struggle or an embrace. The dancers formed partnerships and battled each other—at times aggressively, others sensually. In one moment, Kostich faced the audience while being pulled back toward her partner. Her anguished and languid movements, while morphing from ballet to modern, were captivating.
Parson’s The Snow Falls in the Winter brought out a subtle hilarity and awkwardness from the dancers. As with much of Parson’s work, we hear from a variety of narrators who change roles and eventually become the ones being narrated. This tangled and mangled version of Ionesco’s The Lesson tells a story of a professor who gives a schoolgirl, played by Kostich, lessons in his home. The maid of the house completes her chores—like answering the door—by way of collapsing to the floor and speaking with a sarcastic affect towards the audience. In the end, we’re left with the maid, played by Elizabeth DeMent, explaining the proper etiquette—Emily Post-style—of writing a thank-you note, while the other dancers swirl around her, babbling incoherently enough to distract her from her monologue.
If nothing else, the dancers of OtherShore offered a beautiful distraction from the outside world. But they brought much more than that, and we’ll continue to wonder where else this ambitious troupe will take us.