Big Dance Theater
The Other Here
Annie B Parsons and Paul Lazar, the minds behind Big Dance Theater, have for years put together some of the coolest, most appealing hybrid performances around. Add The Other Here to the list. Taking two Mabuse stories as a starting point, the story revolves around an insurance salesman, his quarry (a local widow), a lazy servant, and a carp, present on a video screen/bucket (set design by Takeshi Kata). Any concern that the production would miss the musical stylings of previous frequent collaborator Cynthia Hopkins went by the wayside as Heather Christian opened her mouth to sing, emitting a crushed velvety, entrancing voice. And the air of absurdity increased as the androgynous Jess Barbagallo worked the floor as the emcee. The set of two wheeled low tables and a catwalk surround provided simple flexibility. Parsons’ prosaic, folksy dance phrases, performed most notably by Tymberly Canale, added to the savory mix.
Nottthing is Importanttt
It’s an unspoken contract that when you sit down in a theater, you surrender yourself to the artist’s mercy — usually for better, sometimes for worse. I have never felt so helpless as in the third part of DD Dorvillier’s Nottthing is Importanttt, when we were led by the arm to seats in the back half of the theater, which had been made totally dark. Rather than my eyes adjusting to the darkness, it somehow seemed to get even darker to the point where I felt that this must be what it’s like to be blind. Mild panic crossed my mind, then resignation that I’d probably only get hurt if I tried to leave, and then I actually became very relaxed. Dorvillier’s dancers ran around in the pitch dark, stirring the air. A couple of watts of light allowed my eyes to gain some focus, only to darken once again. Prior to that, the performers arranged themselves in various poses again and again, showing a different patch of flesh each times. After this, their movement en masse was a relief. A strange and transporting film followed, featuring Dorvillier dressed as Santa, smashing some folding chairs with a sledge hammer, and later descending headlong into the earth in a digitally animated segment. Footage of a guy splitting logs was reversed so, intriguingly, the logs reformed. But being plunged into total darkness and giving myself over to others by far held the most resonance.
Vincent Mantsoe Men-Jaro
651 Arts/Danspace Project at Kumble Theater
Mantsoe is based in France but originally hails from South Africa. His company members, accompanied by enchanting live music, brought a good mix of experience to the stage, but after a short while it became clear that Mantsoe is the big attraction. In an extended solo, he literally becomes possessed, so imbued with spiritual power that it seems as if he might explode. With his eyes bugging out, he moved with such speed that I think he inserted some subliminal facial expressions that my mind only inventoried moments after their execution. As he finished his dancing in tongues, Lesole Maine grabbed Mantsoe to steady him. The drawback — after such a rapturous performance, watching the other dancers merely seemed like a rote exercise.
Since her return to New York a couple of years ago, Karole Armitage has made some welcome and anticipated contributions to the contemporary ballet canon. Her recent New York premiere, Ligeti Essays (2005), showed that she has the patience to unspool a dance in one long silvery filament. A tree sculpture by David Salle sat upstage, lit by fluorescent tubes lying on the stage’s perimeter (by Clifton Taylor); black velvet leotards with satin belts set a formal tone. The fine company’s ballet technique (with recent addition of the wonderful Scott Rink) provided a strong foundation for Armitage’s contemporary articulations and twisty partnering segments. The final scene entrance of pregnant company member Megumi Eda lent a human element lacking in the previous scenes. Also on the program – a version of Time Is the Echo of an Axe Within the Wood, with its odd yoga and voguing sections mercifully cut, and the sweet visual joke called Pig, a very brief duet between Eda and Jeff Koons’ inflatable pig.