Triskelion Arts’ Alduous Theater, Brooklyn NY
January 10-12 2013
By Tara Sheena.
Shannon Gillen is not afraid to tell you what’s on her mind and that usually means that some fairly provocative themes turn up in her work. She has discussed conceptions of freedom (Clap for the Wolfman, 2010), the international shipping industry (Botlek, 2012), human DNA (Deep Sequencing, 2012), and, most recently, the inevitable: death and mortality with A Colored Image of the Sun. Gillen’s newest evening-length creation premiered in the midst of a busy January dance season in NYC, January 10-12, at Triskelion Arts’ Alduous Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The scene managed to be fresh and serene despite the usual grunge and lived-in feel of this Brooklyn studio space. Spring was in the air and Gillen’s movers, donning simple white shift dresses and pigtails wrapped in the same white fabric, harkened to the joyous and ritualistic festivals that commence this season of renewal. One of the festivals Gillen found inspiration in is the Indian festival of Holi, an event marked by the tossing of colorful, health-beneficial herbal powders. Gillen’s clear nod to this event of replenishment offered stark contrast to the underlying, and considerably darker, theme of death that marks the work. This piece is deceptive in that way. The dancers take on a Pollyanna-esque innocence of appearance but their movement and demeanor is anything but.
Genna Baroni opens with an intense solo, incredibly pleasing to watch on her lanky frame. Admittedly, at times it is all too satisfying to see her come into tiger-like crouches and revolt against herself with audible punches to the chest. Violence, whether self-inflicted or by others, is omnipresent. Before long, the ferocious Catherine Coury runs at Baroni head-on with the force of a final sprint and takes her to the ground. They recover. It happens again. This violence is constantly hungry with an appetite that is difficult to satisfy, let alone satiate. What is introduced as a communal ritual in renewal and bonding quickly becomes a Darwinian exercise in individualism and the every-man-for-himself mentality Gillen’s performers embody.
The ensemble moments feel equally brooding and charged. As I watch this work, it feels like it has been going on for hours, even days, before I have come to see it. The highly ritualized sense in the movement feels like there is a continuity in it that cannot be stymied. The performers bring an unadulterated intensity to it all; there are multiple moments where I am provoked to the edge of my seat. These women inhabit a community they both love and hate, worship and envy, glorify and shirk. A notable moment for this inglorious duality takes place when the women share in a powerful motif of literally eating out of each other’s palms. As the odd man out in this equation, Emily Terndrup feigns ambivalence as she looks on. The women feast on each others’ flesh and leave Terndrup to fend for herself. No one is sorry. It’s survival of the fittest in Gillen’s world and it looks like you have to be more than strong to survive.
For more information about Shannon Gillen + Guests, visit www.shannongillen.com.
Photo: Dancers Emily Terndrup, Catherine Coury, Genna Baroni, Amy Moore, and Gabrielle Lamb in Shannon Gillen’s A Colored Image of the Sun. Photo by Breegan Kearney.