It was promising. The roofless white box – 16 feet by 20 feet, which sat empty and brightly lit while the audience filed into the P.S.122 performance space on a Saturday night in mid-July – was suddenly engulfed in blackness, then relit with stroboscopic flashes to show three female dancers inside, variously frozen in postures of sitting, standing, and lying down. The raucous instrumental music that accompanied, put together mostly by Bosnian composer and guitarist Goran Bregovic with some selections by Peter Eötvös, John Moran, and Arvo Pärt, played beautifully and loudly. Its jagged fits and starts suited the choreography to a tee.
Things stayed hopeful for Readymade Dance Theater’s Pure through the next chimerical vignette. Dancer Jenny Hipscher, wearing a conservative print dress, aggressively scaled the walls of the box to rouse Sarah Wright and Dana Ten Broeck, who had been haphazardly lounging on the top edges. She then pulled them down to the stage and a round robin of sorts began. One after another, the women ran up the sides of the box, throwing their arms forward to grab hold of the upper edge, and either stayed there, grasping and swaying with feet hanging down, or swung their legs up to take a brief respite on the top ledge before being dragged back to the floor. There was little eye contact and no sense of completion. The dancers’ strength and focus was strong and sharp, and the originality of their movements was stimulating and memorable.
The ten-year-old Readymade Dance Theater Company, based in Albuquerque and directed by Hungarian native Zsolt Palcza, has a deserved reputation for delivering potent, iconic gestures and choreography. But Pure lost its tenacity through repetition. The second scene, in which projections of ocean waves and sea life were cast over the dancers as they again traded positions and interacted in impersonal, incomplete ways, lasted too long and crossed the line from reverie to soporific. An out of place passage followed in which the dancers spent several minutes pacing about the stage, taking turns talking about things they wanted to do, their lists the stuff of Chicken Soup for the 20-Something Girls’ Soul: “I want to learn to quilt … to get to know my grandparents … to smoke cigarettes and not worry about the consequences.” And the last major sequence, where fruit hanging from the rafters was plucked and passed between the women gymnastically (no-hands-allowed) as they drifted slowly around the stage in the dim glow of a disco ball, looked more like a high school drinking game than a sensual counterpart to the previous interactions’ combativeness.
By its end, the show had wandered out of its personality and diluted itself out of brilliance, and that’s too bad. If the excess was cut and Pure centered more completely on the strong movements and desolate emotional style that are Readymade’s signature, the dance could live up to its name.
April Greene, the Rail's dance editor, lives, writes, and bikes in Brooklyn.