Friday, June 22, 2012

Uptown, downtown...another town?

Choreographer Andrea Miller and her relatively new company, Gallim Dance, presented their first solo evening presentation at the Joyce Theater last weekend as a part of the Gotham Dance Festival. This work, Sit, Kneel, Stand, as well as the language used in Miller’s past works, is undeniably unique in the New York dance scene. Fitting neither the classicism nor shapeliness of the so-called uptown dance scene, nor the intellectually sculpted, physically unformed downtown dance scene, Gallim presents a movement vocabulary that is intensely physical, jam packed with awkward gesture and uses an impressive juxtaposition of staccato jar and unexpected fluidity. Miller’s voice, as well as those of the talented cast of dancers she has chosen to work with, is refreshing and fearless.

Sit, Kneel, Stand, based on “The Myth of Sisyphus,” tooled with manipulation; dancers manipulated their own bodies, the bodies of others, the chairs that occupied the space, the emotions of one another and the emotions of the audience. As the house opened, dancer Troy Ogilvie was in the space improvising an acutely specific and deeply focused solo. Ogilvie moved her own body parts incrementally and, attempting to do the impossible, used them to try moving the lip of the stage. She worked tirelessly at her task while maintaining an invisible wall between herself and the front row of the audience that was inches away. As the curtain rose, she clambered on the stage and met her fellow company members. Two male dancers leaned into one another in an awkward embrace and dancer Francesca Romo loudly declared “This is how we’re going to start the show!” Already stepping away from definitions that the dance scene has tattooed on its players, Miller had introduced spoken word, physicality with resonance of deeply engrained traditional technique and gesture in her warm and comedic opening.

Dancer Jonathan Royse Windham shifted chairs under the feet and hands of the tiny, felinesque Arika Yamada as though they were floating islands catching her weight. Constantly in steady slow motion, Yamada, entirely unaware of the chairs or other human son stage, stretched and twisted as she stepped blindly into the open space always just saved from crashing down to the earth as Windham managed to position a chair in her path. Windham’s body and movements were quirky and disconnected and, at times, confusing to watch (at one point, like a contortionist, he tossed his left arm behind his head where it stayed directly parallel to his collar bone and motioned with his fingers) in relation to the trancelike softness of Yamada. Yamada maintained this detached persona throughout, oblivious of the chaotic happenings that surrounded her; drifting in and out of the space, a solid, pleasant form to watch and feel attached to amid the eccentric, high-speed motion of the others.

In another section, veteran Gallim dancer (if you can be a veteran in a company that is only 5 years old), Francesca Romo, manipulated the body of Dance Walczak piece by piece as she attempted to lead him towards Yamada; try as she may Romo never acheived her goal. Romo’s hectic, jerky movements were accompanied by vocalization of her frustrations in her girly, heavily accented voice. Her comedic timing was spot on and came to an end with her experiencing a mini-meltdown.

At one point Walczak and Yamada, literally, fell into one another. They merged together like metal alloys creating soft architectural shapes and morphing throughout the space, Walczak adapting to Yamada’s molasses-like speed. The two moved in unison as classical music surged. While the dancers never made eye contact with one another nor had any sort of presentational awareness of the audience, their bodies spoke loudly of the loneliness that can be felt when we are not actually alone.

Towards the end of the workthe dancers took the stage as a company. They flew through the space with arching leaps making angular patterns. It was a joy to witness this very physical company moving in full. They crissed and crossed, spun and dropped; there were pairings and trios. In the waves of physicality the company maintained a movement quality that was somehow simultaneously jerky yet fluid, and always unpredictable. Set choreography broke away to a playful and vigorous game of tag wherein the dancers chased one another as they shouted and bolted like children at a playground.

Thank you Andrea Miller and thank you Gallim dance for bringing together the beauty of both New York dance “camps.” Gallim is a force and I, for one, look forward to seeing how they continue shape the architecture of the dance scene in New York and abroad.

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