Sunday, April 24, 2016

Anything but Empty Moves

Photo: Jean-Claude Carbonne
If you stripped away the soundtrack for Angelin Preljocaj's Empty Moves Parts I, II & III—John Cage's Empty Words—it would still be constitute an immensely gratifying experience. The movement that the French choreographer created for this 1:45 work is jammed full of modern dance invention and exploration into the possibilities of the human body times four. It was performed at the Joyce by Nuriya Magimova, Baptiste Coissieu, Yurié Tsugawa, and Fabrizio Clemente (the latter two performed parts I & II at BAM in 2010), to a recording of Cage's 1977 Milan performance, at which the audience members at his 1977 reading essentially staged a revolt while Cage serenely reads his deconstruction of Thoreau's text. They shouted, clapped, stamped, and howled in protest.

Preljocaj's choreography is only nominally linked to the Cage score, most notably in part III when some of the dancers' rhythms mirror the riotous clapping. For most of the work, there's great tension between the movement onstage and the mental action summoned by the aural anarchy. The impact of the sound is so mentally powerful, however, that many Joyce viewers were compelled to walk out, despite the rewarding dance taking place. Or perhaps they were expecting to see ballet.
Photo: Jean-Claude Carbonne

That said, the choreographer often works in the classical ballet lexicon, and many of the works seen in New York, particularly at BAM, tend to have elaborate sets and are composed of many sections which vary in narrative and dynamic. Empty Moves departs from what I have seen of Preljocaj's work, to the extent that it seems that quite another person created it. It feels rooted in the structure and approach of Merce Cunningham, with whom Preljocaj studied, further underscored by the use of a score by Cage, Cunningham's life partner. 

The several measures of movement that form the opening section act as a kind of reset button between parts, augmented from the second repeat on with a bottle of much deserved water passed among the dancers. But for the most part, the movement does not repeat, nor is it of a common canon. It is made on specific bodies so closely interlinked and dependent that after a time they seem to move as one large organism. Experiments with cause and effect, gravity, and geometry are endlessly explored. An occasional emotional reaction or humorous gesture warms the proceedings, which can come across as nearly scientific in their procedural pace and exhaustive depth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would love to have seen that. C.