Thursday, January 9, 2014

Gotham Dance—Elkins and Shick

doug elkins choreography etc. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
Gotham Dance's first program offered polar opposite views of contemporary dance in New York in two revivals. 

Doug Elkins' Scott, Queen of Marys (1994) is all precision moves and poses, with a kaleidoscope of influences from the highland fling, voguing, hip-hop, ballet, and ballroom. The eight dancers wear smart, form-fitting athletic gear (by Naoko Nagata) reminiscent of Star Trek (why don't others use of this type of gear more often?). Javier Ninja is the mysterious, fleeting central figure of the dance who makes a grand entrance by executing an elaborate Medusa's head of snaking hands and arms. The runway stomp binds this stylistic collage, which is delivered in a highly presentational, semi-confrontational attitude by the dancers to goad, or dare, you into liking it, which of course you do. And while Elkins' highly varied choreography may seem improvisational at moments, his bouncy phrases (to a score by Mio Morales) fit together like a precision machine.

Vicky Shick and Dancers
Vicky Shick's Everything You See (2013) was originally done at Danspace Project, where a scrim separated the stage—and the audience—into halves. At the Joyce, the scrim simply bisected the proscenium stage longitudinally, so half of the action was veiled. The cast of 10 moved in a casual manner, posing, making gestures with crooked fingers, occasionally leaned on one another, hoisted a table across the stage, climbed atop it or leaned on it. Every so often they ran laps around the scrim, rare moments of unison. Like the choreography, the costumes (by Barbara Kilpatrick) are composed of quirky combinations. In one poignant scene, Shick paired off with Wendy Perron (both danced with Trisha Brown), playfully knocking limbs and nuzzling on the floor. Together they possess a great deal of modern dance history, and they shared the stage with many younger, yet established, artists, such as Heather Olson and Jon Kinzel. 

In the end, Everything felt like a word search in which I sought moments of logic, in contrast to Elkins' crisply engineered crossword puzzle.

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