Pam Tanowitz – Open 24 Hours Dance

March 18, 2019

Pam Tanowitz/Open 24 Hours Dance Company

Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum
New York, New York

March 18, 19, 2001

Reviewed by Kevin Giordano

At the Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process program, choreographers are invited to present their work and join in question-and-answer sessions that are sometimes awkward, sometimes collegiate, and often insightful. Choreographer Pam Tanowitz and her troupe, Open 24 Hours Dance Company, performed two new pieces, Monument and Informal, at the March 18 installment of Works & Process, and joined in a half-hour Q & A session.

Tanowitz’s movement, though decidedly modern, pays constant homage to ballet; some references are barely discernible, while others are often on the tip of the dancers’ toes, as they were in Monument. Set to Arcangelo Corelli’s Trio Sonatas, Monument harbors no illusions of a story line. This quintet is about specific movement: The dancers’ change from parallel to first position took on the gravity of a tightrope walker taking his next step. If there had been any story here, it might have concerned four individuals sincerely practicing their craft without any choreographic guidance, carefully choosing steps, and occasionally experiencing fits of joy, expressed in jubilant, relaxed gestures, sudden leaps, and the waving of hands and arms. The dancers alternated between this loose-limbed movement and sudden, eager focus, like that of young ballet dancers at barre.

There was something endearing about Monument, possibly because the piece was dedicated to Tanowitz’s mentor. It was as though the ghost of a teacher was onstage with the dancers, pointing them in the right direction, encouraging them. In Informal, the dancers also performed with visible concentration, but this time, the piece didn’t fare quite as well. Informal possessed that same intellectual eagerness for perfection, minus the compassion.

Set to music by Dan Siegler (Tanowitz’s husband), Informal featured New York City Ballet soloist Tom Gold. Siegler’s repetitive score, written for the piece and performed live by cello, piano, and violin, offered few musical dynamics, and its monotonous pulse may have had a lulling effect. Gold performed with the exact amount of insouciance that ballet dancers often seem compelled to bring to modern movement. Tanowitz centered the movement on the lower body. Legs and feet seemed to take center stage for performers and viewers alike, and weight was pressed down. The trio did not dig into any emotional cavities; this piece was a study in steps.