Irondale Art Center, Brooklyn, NYC
August 1, 2014
By Leigh Schanfein of Dance Informa.
BODYART, a collaborative dance theater company based in NYC, offered Thread, a well-considered and aptly executed work, this summer at Irondale Arts Center. Theoretically based on the tale of Ariadne and the Minotaur, each component of the performance contributed to a final product that felt whole, but not quite deliciously full. Each of these components – that is the staging, lighting, prop use, visual design, music and choreography – lent itself wisely and bravely toward a worthwhile and impressive end. BODYART is undoubtably a smart company.
The work, which involved more than five artistic collaborators in addition to the Artistic Director Leslie Scott and the seven dancers, began with three dancers placed behind wide, translucent, vertical strips of plastic. Our first visual comes when the stage flickers to life with the projection of a dancer’s silhouette ricocheting off the plastic and through to the floor behind the living dancer, the two (living and projected) moving together in rhythms and rebounds. Too quickly, the piece transitions away from this beautiful and enticing suite of duets, moving on to the living dancers alone.
In a series of solos and duets, it becomes clear that the BODYART dancers, who were fully collaborative in the choreographic process and make a beautifully diverse group, are detailed and sensual movers with an easy energy on stage. Their movement style is not only entrancing because of its ease and clarity, but also because of how it retains and exemplifies the dancers’ individuality. It was clear before learning of the choreographic process that the dance was made for and by these seven women. The duets between stand-out dancers Andrea Lanzetti, Rachel Abrahams and Alison Ploor were particularly interesting and beautiful. By midway through the first half, it was clear that staging, lighting, graphic direction and sound were near equals in importance to the dance, which is a tremendously important accomplishment in the process of creating a “work” and not just a dance.
The second half opens with a new sound – that of long paper strips hanging across the far upstage blowing in the force of several fans. The sound up to this point in the form of original sound scores felt very important in this work, and this new sound does too. The music provided ample meat to feed the movement throughout. There is one small section around this time that provides the only major shift in sound, an increase in musical intensity. Unfortunately, the movement intensity didn’t quite match it and what needed to be a major break in the flow, a treat for our eyes and our heart beats, simply didn’t deliver. The dancers almost reached an apex when the whole group (the only occurrence) moved in unison, but the movement itself and the continual small group breaks retained too much of the ease it held before and would continue to have thereafter.
In a very different way, the work finally offers something that makes us question, and gives us halting breath as we approached the end. One dancer goes to the wall of paper now tangled and tossed, and begins to wrap it in her arms, and pull. She begins to slowly and carefully (but not cautiously) pull it down. She finds within it a single red strip, striking against the white that she pulls and pulls and tears and pulls. Another dancer takes over pulling and pulling as if life would end with it if only she could find the end, as a tangle of red and white pools around her. But the end never comes. When she collapses, the other dancers go and methodically tear down every long strip, pulling and popping, twisting and pooling and wrapping tendrils in arabesque curls around their feet. Slowly, the dancers make their way to the floor, nearly immersing themselves in the mounds, returning to the sound, making a crushing folding din over the music and then into the empty silence when the soundtrack cuts out, ending far too early to satiate my ears.
Certain parts of Thread could have indulged us and given our senses far more – particularly the beginning that delighted us with projected dancers moving both vertically and horizontally with their living counterparts, and the ending that finally broke our emotional glass and left us scrounging with the dancers in that noisy mess of paper and air. I longed for the despair to really hit me, and to hear that sound for one minute longer!
Nevertheless, there wasn’t a single part of what they did give us that didn’t work or begged to be removed. This is a smart company indeed.
Photo (top): BODYART presents Thread. Photo by Matthew Murphy.