Loud music and visually loud movement saturate the stage. The dancers embark on a feat of big unison steps, flowing through choreography that sweeps and spirals, playing on and off the axis of the body. The movement feels as though it is in the process of being found rather than stamped into completion. Dancers harness the space with large arms and supple feet, rarely staying in the same spot for more than a second, and always keeping a precise relationship to the group. The music eventually fades down as the dancing dials up in sharpness of gesture, amounting to a dramatic yield that materializes across the cast. The ceiling feels lower. Kate Wallich’s work, A Drama, is appropriately named.
YC2: New Dances II introduces works by Wallich, Tom Weinberger, and Sidra Bell, whose piece was staged by BODYTRAFFIC’s co-artistic director Lillian Barbeito. These distinct pieces offer themes of trust and agency, providing creative virtue of both the individual dancers and the mutual company.
Dismantled.Harmonies by Weinberger is intricate in pattern. Weaving in and out of each other, the dancers reference what appears to be movements from a longer phrase that has been personally fragmented. Dancers interpret these reference points with measured individuality. There are weighted pelvic shifts and feet that poke the sky. One dancer repeatedly reaches both arms in front of her while standing, before allowing the weight of her head to crumble behind her as she subtly falls off a cliff. Repetition takes precedence over choreographic change, and the movement language embodies a soft geometry.
One dancer, Emma Wheeler, recalls a perspective Weinberger shared with the dancers on the piece at the talkback following the performance. She recounts, “You are hiking. You are hiking in your body. You are hiking with people. You are seeing the top as you go. You might get to a view at the end.” Wheeler explains that view or not, Weinberger emphasized a togetherness in your body. This is evident in the ensemble driven nature of the work. The same movement is assembled in each corner of the stage as a whole before it finally separates into solos for a brief period before the lights fade out. It is clear that the pulse of the group is favored over all other elements of the choreography and styling of the piece. This structure portrays a durational study on the energetic methodicalness of a shared collective.
The true highlight of the program is the excellence of the dancers. The cast of six artists function as incredible movers, performers, and perhaps most importantly, decision makers.
It is revealed that Wallich’s piece unfolds into an improvised ending, and Bell’s work is similarly open to individual artistic choices within the world of the work. This is reflected in the title of Bell’s piece, Beyond the Edge of the Frame, indicating that though the choreography may provide an outline, it is the dancers’ responsibility to extend beyond the lines of such. The real core of the work resides in the dancers’ ability to accomplish this breakout task—the success of the piece is completely reliant on them.
They deliver this success with resilient precision in both works. On this particular night of Wallich’s piece, two dancers make contact in the middle of the piece. This encounter appears, perhaps, to be accidental at first, but the contact is received with such care that it does not convincingly deter from the choreography. Shortly after, the piece ends with these same two dancers in a wandering duet as the focal point of conclusion. The shared decision is made that an earlier chance encounter deserves to be developed further in the ending progression. The duet dancers intelligently catalogue this experience to be readdressed later, and the rest of the group recognizes in a brief period of time that the importance of the ending, tonight, depends on them providing space for this duet to occur.
This kind of choice making requires the ability to be completely absorbed in the current movement while simultaneously observing the work from afar, in order to offer the stage what it needs at every changing second. It is a privilege to watch these artists take care of the space they create. – Meredith Pellon
YC2: New Dances II showed at Velocity Dance Center September 20-23, 2018. For more information on YC2, visit their website.