Sunday, February 5, 2012

Vases and Corners, 10/23/09

Deborah Kolker at City Center

Colker's 4 by 4
Brazilian Deborah Colker’s company may rarely visit New York, but going by 4 Por 4 at New York’s City Center through Oct 25, the choreographer does not lack ambition. The program features four simply-titled dances with distinctive sets by different artists whose visions lay the thematic groundwork.
Each dance’s visual environment sets parameters for the choreography, whether it be mood or physical limitation. The opening dance, Corners, is just that—six mobile cutaway room corners that constrain the dancers or challenge them to escape and enter from above. Whether by intent or not, the womens’s slick gyrating movements and stiletto heels conjure images of go-go dancers. Men replace them (not wearing stilettos), eventually climbing upon the units and jumping down from what appears to be an alarmingly high distance. The dated music adds to the pseudo-club atmosphere that quickly becomes repetitive and is distinctly lacking in irony.
Table‘s focus is a rolling—surprise—table fitted with several audio speakers and a conveyor belt on top. In front of a lime green scrim, one to three dancers perform a kind of moving sculptural sequence. The slowly crawling treadmill the covers part of the table provides some interesting effects, allowing one dancer to slide between another’s legs, or imitate water headed over the falls. It’s accompanied by a booming bass-heavy sound score. The set for Some People consists of garish paintings of body parts covering the floor and upstage wall. The movements include “rude” behavior—smelling armpits, etc.—and smiles plaster the dancers’ faces, but the forced humor falls short. But when the group moves ensemble, it gains a power and momentum that’s otherwise missing in Colker’s choppy phrasing here.
Colker plays piano onstage at the start of Vases as women dance before her in pointe shoes, which seem to represent the dance equivalent of Mozart. But it seems that Colker can’t decide between dance vocabularies, making big, deliberate preparations for turns and then letting the dancers fall lazily out of turns into parallel. However, the final section of Vases suits her style perfectly. A grid of 90 blue and white vases is installed as the first section takes place downstage. The piano goes off, costumes become contemporary white deconstructed shirts and trunks. Now the dancers have to navigate this complicated obstacle course, moving in aisles and sweeping their legs over the vases. This task-oriented, stop-and-start style helps give Colker structure, and it works seamlessly. Lines corresponding to each vase drop from the sky, with plumb bob thingies that click into the vase mouths in order to lift them. Dancers move underneath the vases as they drift upward, as in a stunning dream.
Photo: Jean Gama, Rodrigo Werneck, Rico Ozon, Vadzim Hermanovitch, and another dancer, in 4 por 4

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