BODYART with PUBLIQuartet (A Review)

West 4th Music Collective
BODYART
with PUBLIQuartet
Baruch College, NY
Friday, October 5th, 2012

Written by Sharon Mizrahi
© 2012 Sharon Mizrahi

A look through the program for BODYART’s debut of Loft reveals several poetic epithets about the dance company. The collaboration, launched in 2005, features “human theatre,” captivating viewers with “moving imagination.” At the Baruch Performing Arts Center, founder and artistic director Leslie Scott illustrated this expressive approach by attempting to unite her “human theatre” with live music.

The opening movement quickly blossomed into a play on both geometry and gender from the all-female group. Jagged twirls and angular arcs peppered the choreography, though the dancers achieved fluidity nonetheless. Intriguing was the use of techniques frequently performed by male-female pairs, such as lifting one another into the air and launching elaborate back-twirls. Yet often the lifts and twirls would taper off in the final few seconds, seemingly propelled by too little force.

As a pre-recorded Phillip Glass Saxophone Quartet composition blared across the airwaves, however, the performance grew charged and assertive. Dancers clustered in center stage, some flat on the floor and others tousling in the tight space, leaping dangerously close to one another’s faces. Allison Ploor particularly spearheaded the segment, taking on a distinctive stage presence both fierce and innately graceful. The action took a turn as a saxophone belted out its alarm-like wail, while dancers ran scattered laps across the stage. Soon the laps condensed into syncopated movements, harmoniously resonating with the hypnotic musical work.

The latter half of the program flourished less in the kinetic realm. Scott’s choreography subtly gave way to uncertainty, favoring the repetition of certain motifs at the expense of continuity. Arm-raised glides, half-twirls, and cross-stage frolicking epitomized the latter movement of Loft, rendering the program’s initial narrative secondary to non-sequitur gymnastics. But Erin Okayama’s visceral expression gave the scene the bolt of drama it needed to stay afloat.

The all-string PUBLIQuartet provided the live soundtrack, featuring cellist Amanda Gookin in exceptionally evocative form. Her Doppler effect-styled notes, peppered by Adrianna Mateo’s sprightly violin plucks, added a welcome layer of vivacity to the on-stage performance. At a certain point in the program, however, a pre-recorded piece confusingly came over the sound system while the quartet–still ready with their instruments–sat silently in their seats for the duration of the track.

Amid the odd faux pas, Loft ultimately provided an interesting union of kinetic, musical, and visual art-forms. Costume designer (and dancer) Rachel Abrahams and theatre/lighting designer Zephan Ellenbogen particularly pioneered the latter, providing a poignant aesthetic throughout the show. White plastic confetti blanketed the stage, strikingly complementing the dancers’ puffy floor-length skirts. Most gripping was Ellenbogen’s use of lighting as a bold artistic statement, notably in Movement III. Large floodlights illuminated the audience while projecting the dancers as dark shadows, wittily flipping the dynamic between viewers and performers.

Sharon Mizrahi created and writes for The Lindy Hopper NYC.

BODYART

West 4th New Music Collective

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