He uses rulers, but not for measurements. The gentle brushing of a pant leg, the checking of a pulse, a pause followed by the simple yet elegant act of peeling white tape off a black wall—a gesture reveals the obscurity behind linear thought. Like a three-dimensional Sol Lewitt drawing, Jon Kinzel’s choreography makes us realize the futility of narrative, and the precision that underlies everyday movements and interactions. Pairs of bodies meticulously waver and weave in and out of each other, resulting in washes of ambiguity. We see the starry coordinates in the night sky, but are unable to identify the constellation.
These are the many ways in which six bodies inscribe themselves in space without feeling the pressure of function in Jon Kinzel’s Responsible Ballet And What We Need is a Bench to Put Books On, which premiered at The Kitchen on Thursday, January 28th 2010. Responsible Ballet… features the remarkable presences of Jeremy Pheiffer, Hillary Clark, Vicky Shick, Christopher Williams, and Jodi Melnick. Episode after episode fade into one another against Kinzel’s minimal white tape line drawings on the black background, the subtle yet effective lighting design of Karen Walcott and Sarah Michelson, and a complimentary score composed by Kinzel, Fly Ashtray, and Vivian Stoll.
Hypothetical relationships gracefully evolve only to dissipate in space: Williams thoughtfully considers a pose for Kinzel; Kinzel cradles Pheiffer in his arms; Pheiffer isolates himself from his counterpart in a rapt solo accompanied by the low hum of a vibrating object.
Clark has a mysterious, and at times unresolved role throughout the evening. She stands for a prolonged period in between gray panels suspended from the ceiling and then anxiously cowers against a black wall, making pained facial expressions. Her duet with Williams teeters on the brink of narrative, building itself toward some climactic event, yet ultimately muddling itself in confusion. Clark’s part is further heightened by Kinzel’s curious decision to microphone her. Why amplify her physical presence over the others? Why not Pheiffer, whose quiet, yet highly refined movements made for one of the more memorable appearances of the evening?
Kinzel’s charismatic naïveté recalls that of a child’s. He makes particularly lovely pairings with Schick and Melnick—opening us up to the physical and emotional anomalies of nonverbal communication. A back bends, a pair of arms precariously extend into soft angles, the body tenses up only to become a mechanism of support for another making us wonder what it means to cohabitate with the other—to exist in two.
In the end, only Kinzel is left in deep concentration. He faintly sways backward and forward on two firmly planted feet as if trying to keep his balance. His closing movement signifies a state of perpetual hesitation—what seems to happen when we grow with and apart from each other.
Christine Hou is a poet and arts writer living in Brooklyn.