Three Variants Of Downtown Dance
Susan Marshall celebrated her company’s twentieth anniversary (and temporary survival on the brink of financial ruin) at Dance Theater Workshop last month with Cloudless. A dance in eighteen sections for five unusually resonant performers, Marshall explores the loss of innocence, without its usual nostalgic weight, and the complications of intimacy, with unusual maturity. It’s a losing battle as a male dancer tries to perform a solo while supine bodies slide in stubbornly from the wings. All five dancers climb into an empty sandbox. They rest, waken, turn, fall back asleep. Bit by bit, they tug one of the dancer’s clothes off. Two male dancers turn the pages of a book together, while figures behind them whisper in their ears. One of the background figures turns on a fan that takes control of the flipping pages. What is most impressive is not this evocative tableau of images and incidents (which I’ve only hinted at here) but how very inhabited small moments are, how unceasing the bath of meaning. A literary tone prevails, though there are no words in the score, which was made in tandem with the dances and includes a piano work by Philip Glass and a Bizet arrangement by David Byrne.
Ashleigh Leite, a compact, button-nosed, powerhouse of a dancer formerly of Stephen Petronio Company, debuted her first independent work at the Joyce Soho last month. Autopsy is a bleak dance for five women with radically different body types. It begins with linear mechanism in two pairs, and is interrupted by an exuberant, ego filled solo. Occasional solidarity in the form of a cluster of dancers moving slowly as if in jelly across the stage, reaching with spayed fingers around each other, or gathered in a circle facing outward alternate with downright hostile pas de deuxs. The women seem uncertain whether to assist or destroy one another, but lean towards the latter. Even the costumes suggest alliances. Leite works with a very similar movement style to one that frequently crops up in Petronio. The movement is clipped, often breaking at the waist, and is cut with slicing, terrain covering legwork. It’s mesmerizing, the patterns are sophisticated, but the emotional and psychological gains rarely live up to the promise of the movement.
Faye Driscoll, formerly of Doug Verone and sometimes performer with David Neumann, displayed the fruit of her recent residency at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX) and some older work in Bite Your Lip, an evening comprised of four works, two on video. The thrill of high school basement low budget film revives in LEZ Side Story, an inventive lesbian parody of the classic musical. At its best it’s eye-wateringly funny. In the video Loneliness, a woman in green cellophane throws herself repeatedly against the walls of a corner. Cold Blooded Old Time, performed live, sets up a chipper 1940s dance routine with military gesture rearing its head amidst more innocuous conformity. Driscoll’s premiere Eyes, Eyes, Eyes is a raw exploration of sexual dependency and the struggle to dominate. It ends memorably with two dancers riding two others to the back of the stage, invisible lassos swinging lewdly over their heads, to the line ‘we all need somebody to lean on.’ For just long enough for the laughter to die and the audience to start feeling like uncomfortable voyeurs, one dancer clutches and moves her butt cheeks, while the other three stay still behind and under her, forming arrows with their hands towards the spectacle. Some of the most resonant moments in both rely heavily on interplay with lyrics. A sense of youthful play and collaboration among friends prevails, but the subject matter is serious and Driscoll hits her targets.