Sally Silvers and Dancers

February 7, 2002

Sally Silvers and Dancers think outside, dance inside, three boxes in Strike Me Lightning.
Dona Ann McAdams

Sally Silvers and Dancers

P.S. 122
New York, New York

February 7?10, 2002

Reviewed by Andrea Menotti

There were plenty of ingredients in Sally Silvers’s Strike Me Lightning, disc-shaped slap-on lights (strapped across the dancers’ chests), vibrating ball toys (twelve of them, skittering frenetically around on the floor), a strobe light, a flaring light bulb, black veils, and blue body glitter that sparkled on the dancers’ arms and torsos.

And those were just the visuals.

A few of them, that is.

The soundscape was no less elaborate. There were the vocal stylings of Haena Kim, which evoked everything from a Native American war cry to a madwoman’s cackle, a horse’s whinny, an owl’s hoot, and the shrill yapping of a tiny lap dog. From the onstage sound table there came a live mix of pulsing, blipping, scratchy-n-scrapey music (and one very memorable, earsplitting shriek). There were also animal sounds, whistles, cathedral bells, and text read aloud by Kim and sound designer Bruce Andrews (a random litany that included lines like, “Let the night have its way with you” and “Help yourself to more chocolate”).

Amidst this kitchen sink assemblage (which was intended, according to the program notes, to gel into a world of nuns and cyborgs and “the pearly gates of cyberspace”), there was dancing, performed by seven women (including Silvers) and one man. The dance ingredients were as various as the others, sometimes quite familiar, sometimes surprising, incongruous, and original, like the “competitive kneeling” sequence, in which dancers threw each other out of kneeling prayer positions.

But none of this was as memorable as the simple, stunning clarity of “the box.” The box, which appeared three times, in segments called “Box 1,” “Box 2,” and “Box 3,” was a fantastic feat of set design by Bryan Hayes in which a rectangular shape was cut out of the middle of a black backdrop to create a small performance space inside. The box’s size differed in each of the segments, as did its lighting, so the look was never exactly the same.

In “Box 1,” the box was just large enough to fit two dancers, Silvers and Karen Sherman, who lay together, with their bodies intertwined, moving slowly and lazily. To the audience, this white box suspended in the darkness seemed like a separate, intimate world, like a painting that had come to life. It made such an impression when the lights first came up that many in the audience reacted with oohs and ahhs.

After intermission, the box returned with a different look and a very different mood. This time, it was larger and deeper, with several passageways for lateral movement. The box’s new mood was comic, as disembodied legs rose out of the bottom of the box and stuck teasingly out of the sides. Headless dancers crossed along the top of the box while bodiless heads traversed along the bottom. Dancers made their way across the box in countless ways, by crawling, tip-toeing, and even gliding as if they were on conveyor belts. Pedestrian movement made a sudden and wonderful appearance when one dancer walked across the box, stopped midway with a look of anguish, and turned around to go back.

The square frame and white interior of “Box 2” also brought to mind Lois Greenfield’s dance photography. Like Greenfield’s work, there were moments in “Box 2” of impressive shapes and lines and moments of whimsical silliness, side by side.

The box’s final appearance was the last segment of the show. In this incarnation, the box had a slanted brown wood floor and a bright blue evening “sky” above it. It was like a surreal night landscape, where the dancers, dressed in flesh-toned unitards, curled and stretched together. It was a calm, poignant ending to an eclectic evening.