SWARM at WAX: KICK/STANDanceby John Merchant
Maybe you had a crew back in college or in high school that made a pact to reconvene after some requisite years of fortune seeking. Maybe it was to start a rock band or a macrobiotic restaurant or an experimental school. Part anxiety talk and even then half-believed, those collective daydreams you entertained before setting out into the world would just serve as fodder for reunion chitchat. That is, unless you are one of the founders of the KICK STAND DANCE dance collective. Abby Bender, Layla Childs, Anna Luckey, Cary Baker, and Sonya Robbins might have made such a pact a decade ago when they were students in the dance department of Bard College. Although they split up to pursue different dreams following graduation, they convened in Williamsburg back in 1997 to establish KICK STAND DANCE collective, and nobody’s doubting them. SWARM, their most recent effort, ran through six performances earlier this June at Williamsburg Art neXus (WAX) and demonstrated the unique gifts of these five choreographers through five dances (one in two parts).
Sonya Robbins’s “Flicker” began the evening with Robbins and Childs, two walking figures in country dresses, lulling and lusty in a half-dream behind a white picket fence and underneath the circular flapping of mechanical doves hovering. Anna Luckey followed with “Interstice,” an alert of the considered technical competence of the entire company. Cary Baker’s two-part “I Am Twice,” first pit two self-winding automatons against the whiles of ceiling-hung weighted balloon pendulums swinging around them. Then, after intermission, the pair return as disembodied legs and torsos in search of each other in the eye-tricking black light. “Highly Inflammable Perfectly Unnatural” came to Layla Childs “in the quiet calm of Bharatpur, a bird sanctuary in northern India,” according to the program notes. Two matched pairs dance—one backgrounded, collecting rags and meticulously stowing them in pockets—the other foregrounded, lily clean, unvexed, disrobes and wanders off while the poor gatherers pocket or adorn the discarded tops. Both return for a brief but stunning pas de quatre.
The hands down crowd-pleasingest grand finale was Abby Bender’s “3 Piece Suit/e.” Twenty-five dancers in stiff white shirts, ties, and “tighty whitey” briefs strut about and mug, engage in office chair surfing and get tied up in phone cords. First performed during the halcyon days back at Bard, I’m guessing that a decade’s worth of day jobs added some heft to the irony of this workplace fantasy. The mix of trained and amateur dancers added charm to the piece and underscored KICK STAND DANCE’s mission to engage the greater community in an experience of modern dance performance.
JOHN MERCHANT is a contributing writer for the Rail.