DANCE THEATER WORKSHOP NEW YORK, NY FEBRUARY 18, 19, 27, & 28, 2004
When a continuous sound stops, your ears perk up. It's a well-known auditory phenomenon and one that Susan Rethorst plays with in her new piece oh oh oh. As bits of jazzy music by Sidney Bechet and George Gershwin fade in and out during the dance, each new silence prods us into attention. Rethorst's choreography doesn't construct a narrative; rather it aims for this curious sense of alertness.
The five dancers enter and exit as unpredictably as the music does. Groupings coalesce, then dissipate without warning. Rethorst's performers make you focus on every intricate action. Although the ebb and flow of sound and bodies makes it hard to perceive the direction of the piece, certain motifs emerge: swishing of hips, windmilling of limbs, languid floor poses, a detailed gestural use of arms and hands. At one point, the four women (Jeanine Durning, Taryn Griggs, Jodi Melnick, and Vicky Shick) line up front to back. But despite this momentary spatial conformity, their fluid, self-contained motions suggest that each inhabits her own internal realm. The lone male, Jeremy Nelson, tears through the space, his body steeply inclined. And when he pauses upright, hopping in place, he has a wide-eyed presence as if aware of being an alien in a feminine world.
Oh oh oh begins with an air of lightness, almost of inconsequentiality. As the music keeps stopping, a new movement begins and there's a sense of delight in life's arbitrariness. Towards the end, the periods of silence seem to lengthen and the mood grows somber. It's as if the negative "space" of the silence becomes a deep well. Long sequences repeat. Again we see a duet performed in unison by two couples. The women cradle their partners, enfold them, flip them over, then splay their bodies onto the floor. Again Shick lies down, seemingly loath to rise as actions take place about her. By oh's drawn-out finish, Shick's suggestion of drowsiness has an unfortunate resonance. In the changing sound environment the dancers' persistence in moving makes them seem stoic. Though the dance is filled with nuanced phrases, subtly and brilliantly performed, it takes a certain stoicism in the viewer, too, to stay alert until the end.
In contrast, the excerpt of Rethorst's 1998 Don't Go Without Your Echo ends suddenly and seems rather short. With neon quotation marks occasionally projected on the back scrim, Rethorst encourages us to view the dancing like text on a flat page bracketed by quotes. But the eight dancers, who include Durning, Griggs, Melnick, and Shick, as well as Susan Braham, Steffany George, Sam Kim, and Rethorst herself, have so thoroughly "appropriated" the borrowed material, that it seems entirely natural. In Echo as in oh, Rethorst crafts quirky, multi-layered movements and sends performers on and off stage in unpredictable patterns. Melnick, who opens Echo with a solo, sets the tone: early on she balances near the wings and leans backwards, partially disappearing from view, and then (with unseen aid) fully reappears on balance. This minimoment of peekaboo shows how Rethorst teases yon into noticing each action, from a balance, to a hip swivel, to a head tilt, of a tremor of the hands.
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|Title Annotation:||oh oh oh; Don't Go Without Your Echo|
|Article Type:||Dance Review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2004|
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