LIZ GERRING and RUTH BAGUSKASby Alan Lockwood
THE KITCHEN | APRIL 24–26, 2003
WAX | MARCH 6–9, 2003
Emerging choreographers Liz Gerring and Ruth Baguskas recently debuted evening-length works. Each hit highs on this reviewer’s dance calendar in 2002.
Gerring’s latest work, Yield—at The Kitchen over a weekend in late April—lived up to the ambition that characterized last year’s arch, questing Low Light. From her early installation-like solos and duets, Gerring’s body of work has burgeoned into a rigorous and directed onslaught of dance. Yield is audacious and brave and moves on from the third-party erotics of Low Light (and of its precursor, Sliding Out of Reverse).
When a few feints at adagio appear well into Yield, one wonders if Gerring’s structure might descend into a sedate space. Wrong. The swelling, irresistible pull is back at ya’ in manifold combinations of gestures—a surfeit of exhilarating creature precision and morphing spectacle. Though the dancers fix imperturbable gazes on the audience (are they making a fashion statement, or feigning club thugs on a lineup?) and leave the stage several times, Yield insists on its brawny tone. The sequences during which the stage is empty are fleeting, serving as mere seams before Yield leaps back to action. Here, the two women (Jennifer Howard and Christina Sanchez) and two men (Marc Mann and Miguel Anaya) perform the most evocative duets in the work.
A waveform led by a single dancer downstage repeats several times (Howard opens the piece with this). A sustained quartet of held, entwined, biomorphic poses takes a turn for the unexpectedly familiar when the dancers slip into a pristine, wispy whirl. Sanchez’s taut leap, with her back to the audience, displays her Erector Set extensions.
The sustained intensity of Gerring’s dancers is a mark of her high production standards. So too is painter Hilary Taub’s set design, which is as abstract and assertive as the choreography. Live music by Strata, with Michael Schumacher’s laptop chaff, textured by Tim Barnes’s hand drumming and Kato Hideki’s lurking bass, pushed the sonic envelope. Sami Martin’s dark and light costumes conformed to a gender balance that the dancing challenged incessantly.
In Ruth Baguskas’s Charles’ Pool, presented at WAX in early March, the choreographer plunged her probing taste for interconnections into Darwin’s world of genealogical opportunism. Four dancers, clad in red swimsuits and matching bathing caps, huddled in a wading pool and proceeded to lift, tilt, then empty the water into a bucket. Such an opening is a striking example of Baguskas’s evocative stagecraft: the pool as planet Earth, water-blue, and cast in the stage’s finite light.
Other compelling visual set pieces included a light bulb dangled overhead as the same bucket was used by one dancer for a kitchen soap-down, a ladder of teacups flexed to form the Crick and Watson DNA double helix, and a chatty tea party that spills over into the audience. Video interludes (by Joanne Bovay and Zoie Rizzuto) were interspersed among the dance segments and showed Darwin’s finches, the speedy evolution of their beaks, and colorful, swirling microbiotics.
This interweaving of visual representation took precedent over the deft, almost fey qualities of Baguskas’s dance, underscored by Rebekah Morin’s limber, affecting physicality, and glinting solo passages from Christine Holt and Laurie Benoit. Yet, when the piece concluded with a group dance, it lacked the spontaneous combustion displayed in the deep country hoedown that wrapped last year’s program. Leaving the audience wanting more is not a bad thing. And more of Charles’ Pool would have been fine, especially if it included more of Baguskas’s choreography.