DD Dorvillier / human future dance corps at DTW, January 10 – 17
DD Dorvillier uses a rigorously programmatic scheme to create Choreography, A Prologue for the Apocalypse of Understanding, Get Ready! And yet, the generated movement is highly intentional, if only intellectually so. But let’s back up.
This is a show in three parts. The first is a short film: words on a screen, foreboding a communicative disintegration: “no language,” “only grunts.” The second is a semiotic experiment: Dorvillier, in pink shirt, purple tights, and fabricated accent, describes her actions while Joaquim Pujol translates her words into Spanish. Then, Dorvillier repeats the sequence without narration, and Pujol again translates, this time in movement. The third section feels discordant with the others, if only because its language is less legible. Dorvillier and three other dancers (Amanda Piña, Heather Kravas, and Elizabeth Ward), in high-sheen unitards of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, perform actions and make sounds which, at Dance Theater Workshop, can be called dance.
Get Ready! is a cerebral piece that one must consider academically. If one focuses only on aesthetics, one will leave the theatre early, assaulted by an apparent rehearsal for a Sesame Street skit by a group of spastic zombie cheerleaders with Tourette’s. The dancers’ movements seem random, but are repetitive, obsessive, and, frankly, ugly. But let’s not be dismissive without further investigation.
To create the piece, Dorvillier superimposed a grid on a photograph of her body. She then coded it with letter, number, color, and movement values, instructing each dancer to perform prescribed actions, like pawing the hands, or trembling the right shoulder. A variety of oral ticks—moans, sighs, screeches—coincide. Another set of sounds, designed by Zeena Parkins, correspond with the movement so that the dancers’ gestures generate particular synthesizer pitches. Additionally, the dancers seem to cue Thomas Dunn’s lighting—sometimes colored and sometimes stark, but at its best moments mastering ephemeral textures. Thus, sound and light become a large-scale manifestation of the dancers’ choices. Or, due to the grid’s prescription, shall we say un-choices?
And here is the rub: we cannot say un-choices because choices were made. Even if Dorvillier intends to subtract artistic agency with the use of the grid, a choice must have been made to link each code with each action. The spastic, cavalier, unsightliness of the thing must be intentional.
This prescriptive choreography is a kind of red herring (as are the CMYK unitards: Dorvillier grew up with parents who ran a printing press). It distracts us from the fact that the dancers’ movements are slapdash; their gestures lack in both intention and execution, with no connection between the nervous system, the muscle, and the skin.
The choreographer herself has an infectious, sensual charisma, with flashing eyes and a child-like giggle. At one moment, she rolls across the stage, the sheen of her cyan unitard undulating under low light, and she is beautiful. But her dancers cannot manage these unsightly, hyper-pedestrian movements with any élan.
In Get Ready!, Dorvillier appears to be interested in exploring the connection between movement and sound, but movements and sounds in a vacuum, stripped of their meaning, are futile. Like splotches of color that do not cohere into words or images, C, M, Y, and K bounce and scream and scuttle across the stage, maddeningly empty. If the term “apocalypse” is taken to mean revelation, nothing is revealed. If it’s taken to mean “the end of,” then we see here not the end of “understanding,” but of relevance. I, for one, refuse to “Get Ready.”