Friday, December 12, 2014

Maliphant—Sculpting with Humans

Carys Staton and Adam Kirkham. Photo: Warren Du Preez & Nick Thor
Russell Maliphant's Joyce Theater programStill Current, features his strong, fluid dancers solo or in small groups, moving in a fairly limited spatial range, in lighting (by Michael Hulls) restricted to geometric shapes, otherwise surrounded by utter darkness. In some ways, it banks on certain aspects of his last Joyce presentation, The Rodin Project, but it's unencumbered by the dubious, if elegiac, allusions to the sculptor's work. Still Current presents in abstract terms the beauty of the human form, but without the pretensions. In some cases, movement is limited to just the upper body, or a repeated set of phrases performed with great precision.

It's impressive how focused this program is, despite Maliphant being injured, causing a rejiggering of pieces. A men's duet, Critical Mass (featuring Thomasin Gulgec and Dickson Mbi) feels grounded and muscular as the pair fit their bodies together, or narrowly miss one another. Clothed in chambray shirts and pants, they appear as regular people. Two, a solo for Carys Staton, similar to the duet Two x Two seen in the recent Fall for Dance, confined her to a square, whose lit border she swiped with her feet and hands. Her folded arms became shapes bereft of function. In Still, Mbi's sculpted torso flickers under banded lighting; he is joined by Staton in a contrasting pale blue gown. In Afterlight, Gulgec appears alien, with a beanie covering his head, a white orb floating above a red warmup jacket. (The costumes, by Stevie Stewart, are for the most part casual tops and pants.) 

In Still Current, Marlon Dino danced in place of Maliphant with Staton. Until this piece, most of the partnering was atypical—same gender, or not load-bearing in the male/female tradition. But Dino repeatedly slung Staton over his shoulders, her legs maintaining a parallel, spear-like aspect, sliding her around his torso. It closed a tightly curated evening, mercifully trimmed of artifice and extraneous set pieces.

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