Every dance performance should follow Bobbi Jene Smith’s lead of offering a 45-minute dance class to ticket-holders before a performance! In this case, a Gaga People’s class that everyone, seasoned dancers and newbies alike, could attend. After all, when you think about who it is that actually attends dance performances–retired dancers, professional dancers, would-be-dancers, dance critics–this isn’t a shy crowd of movers. Another advantage is that the performers in the piece get to warm up with the audience. The result is a wonderful level of excitement and tribalism–a perfect pre-performance high.
Bobbi Jene Smith’s world premiere, “With Care” is her second performance at ODC, and continuing collaboration with violinist extraordinaire Keir GoGwilt. It picks up where her last cross-disciplinary performance, “A Study of Effort,” left off, with duets between musician and dancer and the final segment of that piece, “The Effort of Giving Care.” Visual and emotional continuity hold these two works together, along with the sensation-based Gaga movement of Smith’s mentor Ohad Naharin.
“With Care” continues her exploration of minimalistic imagery and set design with a maximum of internal dramatic and emotional turmoil. The dance infuses close to the vest movement, raw, uncompromising facial expression, emphasized by the stark lighting design of Allen Willner. Another signature of her evolving repertoire is the creative exploitation of her relationship with newlywed husband, Or Schariber, both as content material and visuals. Schariber performs in black trousers to Smith’s cleavage-cut black dress. He was much focused upon in the “Bobbi Jene” documentary, as were the highs and lows of their relationship, their sensual naked embraces, and his full frontal nudity. In “WC” he wears the pants of the futile caregiver to Smith’s maddening character of a wounded spirit. Only a true-to-life lover/husband could get away with his face in her crotch, which he places there on occasion. Smartly, they only minimally perform the push pull gestures of relationships. Smith’s steps are sometimes small and repetitive, her holds unrelentingly long and steady, her jerky movements indicate she is being manipulated by multiple voices in her head, or deadly still expressed through vacant staring.
Also added to this new work is another superb violinist, Miranda Cuckson, who as a soloist, or in duet with GoGwilt, covers a range of edgy compositions from John Cage to a more traditional Johann Sebastian Bach. Most engaging is when the two of them improvise, nearly plucking apart their violins musically. Both also are integral parts of the choreography. Cuckson sits slumped in a chair violin dangling for Smith’s solo. GoGwilt stacks pieces of one-by-eights after dropping the bundle of wooden sticks on the floor. He attempts to balance these pieces two at a time, leaning them into each other teepee-shaped. Some take hold and some fall, symbolic of how relationships support themselves or buckle under the pressure of too much weight or imbalance. “With Care” is an intentionally frustrating work of movement within the pressure cooker attempts of caregiving to the hopeless or incurable. It portrays a dark beauty of a saturating deep inner world held together by a sincerity of focus seducing viewers into its haunting stare.
David E. Moreno