Reviewsby Jessica Weiss
DanceBrazil at the Joyce Theater
DanceBrazil presented its 27th season at the Joyce Theater (April and May) with two electrifying programs. Flawlessly fusing the rich rhythm and brisk buoyancy of Afro-Brazilian dance with the fierce ease of Capoeira movements, artistic director Jelon Vieira and guest artist/choreographer Matias Santiago offered audiences a contemporary lesson in Afro-Brazilian culture which involved the ramifications of four centuries of miscegenation, the racial and social struggles that have shaped modern Brazil, and the ultimate liberation of Afro-Brazilian culture. In Anjo de Rua (premiere), the company communicated the danger, victimization and hopeful fantasies that stain the women who work the streets. Here, duets were loaded with violent gestures and optimistic leaps. Eleuther (2001), a solo created and performed by Matias Santiago, whispered a soothing song of the forest. Embodying an Eleutherodactylus Coqui, which is a unique tree frog believed to be the mascot of Puerto Rico, Santiago spread the pads of his fingers and jolted his limbs with such precision and speed that his transitions seem imaginary. But it’s Missao (2003)—a full company work that seamlessly knits Afro-Brazilian and Capoeira movements together—which expresses the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture. It is bursting with refreshing floor patterns and tight ensemble work and explores the transculturation that abounds throughout Brazil.
Maki Morinoue, Mina Nishimura, Bryon Carr and Geraldine Cardiel at Joyce SoHo
Joyce SoHo Presents offered a night of fresh faces and cool movements. In Successions, choreographed by Maki Morinoue and Esse Aficionado, shiny silver boards painted with flowing black lines decorated the back wall. Three women in simple black costumes performed solid, isolated movements and straight-legged walks across the stage. The music—urban and minimalist—ferried the industrial mood of the piece as the dancers robotically shifted weight, resembling black herons with jagged wings. Bosabosa, a solo created and performed by Mina Nishimura, explored the struggles of adolescence. In a school girl uniform and sneakers, Nishimura giggled sheepishly, posed eloquently and flailed her long limbs through voluptuous puppet-like movements. In Bryon Carr’s Link, three dancers weaved in and out of unison and linear formations, their arms swinging like pendulums to the melodious sounds of ticking clocks. Although very lucid, the piece could have used a bit more drive and variation. Geraldine Cardiel’s A Walk in the Park couldn’t be more literal. Depicting proud joggers and their eager admirers, stretching routines and lingering insecure pauses, the work elicited laughs from the audience, but required much more depth in order to really say anything. However, the Jose Limon-esque movements sprinkled throughout each phrase were refreshing.
Splitstream at DTW
Dance Theater Workshop presented emerging artists Antonio Ramos, Ann Liv Young and Jonathon Berger in Splitstream (April and May), a performance that began with a bang and developed into a vague three-ring circus. Ramos’ Me, Me, Me opened the night with a very humorous spectacle which explored identity through painful memories, social pressures, and with the help of such oppressive cultural icons/ideals as the Barbie Doll and ballerina. Ramos and his dancers have great comedic timing and stage presence; they float in and out of simple, yet appropriate dance phrases and character portrayals (sporting tee-shirts stating "Jesus is my homeboy" and Afro wigs). Young’s Melissa is a Bitch was nothing new. Stripping the stage of its back-drop and wings and keeping the blaring glare of the house lights on during the entire scene, a woman forcefully wiggled in a green bikini until her breasts fell out. Next, two naked women perched on wooden swings, screamed about trust funds and loving dykes, changing positions and dropping their ice cream cones to Young’s directional cue "Go!". Yet another naked woman simulated masturbation with two tiny plastic turtles named "I love you" and "I love you, Michael." It was at this point that the man seated next to me stormed out of the theater. Perhaps Young would have loved this occurrence as it proves that yes, her work is confrontational, offensive, and in-your-face, but, it’s also been done before. Berger, an "object maker and situation creator," finished the night with souvenir, a formless incoherent piece of performance art. souvenir featured two men donned in artic-expedition wear who slid down the sloped aisle stairs of the theater. Elfish characters in pointy winter hats, smoking pipes controlled the sound board and stabbed a stuffed ten-foot bear. Also present was a tent that resembled something out of MASH. The press release (which I needed to figure this one out) stated that this performance tracks disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle, the Alaskan Tundra and the continent of Atlantis. Ok, maybe the Alaskan Tundra—the performers were toting an antique sled—but the other two I just couldn’t see. In short, perhaps Berger should stick to making objects, not necessarily situations.
Jessica Weiss is a dancer and writer based in New York.