Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Emanuel Gat Dance

The World According to Gat: Emanuel Gat Dance at ADF

July 7-9 Reynolds Industries Theater

I like to imagine, sometimes, that every dance reveals a certain vision, a certain conception, of the world; that each dance says, “here’s what the world is like, through my eyes.” (I don’t actually believe every choreographer intends this for his or her dance, nor do I assume that each dance speaks its creator’s worldview, just as books are not always speaking their author’s opinions. Rather, I find it an interesting way to make sense of and find the essence and possible significance in a dance.) Looking at some of this ADF season’s offerings from that perspective, the world according to Dayton Contemporary Dance Company is one of struggle and passion, of great internal and external strength, one in which the body speaks eloquently of its condition; Rosie Herrera’s world is a dream-state, where reality is as surreal as fantasy, and dreams are weighted with truth.

The world of Emanuel Gat’s new dance, “Brilliant Corners,” a work for 10 dancers, is one in which moments of clarity and power breeze quickly by, human interaction is fleeting, and everyone, everything, is moving, moving, moving. The evening-length work takes place within a defined square of light on the floor, although sometimes the dance spills over into the dimmer edges of the stage. Gat’s dancers move in exquisitely tuned counterpoint, flocking as a loose group from one corner to another. They move with a smooth control, a sense of tumble and flow, as if they are being blown by the wind, or an incoming wave. The group movement is arranged with a satisfying amount of variation in their level, shape, and facing, so that it looks almost random, but with too many brief but real connections to not be choreographed.

There is a curious pedestrian quality to the dance, although it is not usually evident in the long-limbed, gestural movement. The dancers wear a collection of non-descript pants and shirts, with one woman in a dress, and two women in matching black shorts and white shirts. A few are barefoot, some wear socks, and others are in sneakers.

They turn their gazes on each other nonchalantly, and sometimes move past each other with a casual hand on the back or shoulder—a momentary reminder of their human connection. Otherwise, the connections that are read in their interactions are created by the structure of the choreography, not any emotional expression or even particular meaning in the movement itself. After the initial whole group work, the dancers take the stage in trios and duets; the audience can create relationships in these small group sections, but they can also be seen as pure movement exploration—how does this phrase intersect in space with this other set of movement?

In addition to the choreography, Gat has designed the lights and composed the musical score, which includes subtle piano and big swells of more electronic sounds. A large middle portion of the dance is in silence. For the most part, the changes in the music do not affect the dance or dancers in any discernable way; rather, it remains atmospheric as the dance flows on.

Although there are surely variations of certain set phrases, the dance mostly looks like one new movement after another, which begins to be overwhelming to the eye and the mind. The distinct moments, as fresh as they might be at the time, are virtually unpunctuated, and begin to blur.

Certainly, Gat presents us with a wealth of possibilities from which to draw morsels that resonate. A tightly wound and shifting clump of dancers enters, each of them resting a hand on two others; the placement of the hands keeps changing—ankle, top of head, nape of neck—as do the subtle implications of each location of contact. Amala Dianor, who started as a hip-hop dancer, skims the floor with a delightful buoyancy, movement impulses rippling up through his torso. Fiona Jopp’s final slicing solo that ends, so satisfyingly, on the music’s resolving chord.

In the end, there are simply too many possibilities to attend to with full attention. A shorter version of the dance would allow for more consistent engagement. But perhaps the blurring and the overwhelming flow of the dance is the point. Perhaps this dance speaks of a world where moments of precision and beauty cannot be held for too long, where new ideas tumble one over the other; one where we must all keep moving or be moved; one in which we travel alongside one another, and sometimes, we connect.

Anne Morris, 2011

Rosie Returns

Rosie Herrera returned to ADF a few weeks ago, with a revamped "Pity Party" that premiered at last year's festival, and the new "Dining Alone," which was commissioned by ADF.
It has been such a privilege to watch the progression of her work over the last three years, and get to see it develop and her visions clarify. It was a thrilling evening, as usual.
Here's an excerpt from my review for World Dance Reviews:

It's their party, and they'll cry, laugh, dance, stomp, and sing if they want to: Rosie Herrera's dancers at ADF

The magic is still alive as Rosie Herrera returns to the Reynolds Industries Theater for the third year in a row with her particular, quirky brand of dance theater. She has become a festival favorite in recent years, for the surreal, wild, and touching landscapes she creates in her dances. Her now familiar style--collecting separate, vivid scenes into a dramatic mosaic--serves her well, displaying her sense of comic timing and emotional resonance to full effect. The scenes--bizarre, uncomfortable, poignant, startling--don't always make sense in isolation, but together, they take on a complex significance. The two works on this evening's program both deal in some way with love, human connection, and hope; love is messy, both dances declare, and the things we do to get it and keep it, the things we do when love is over, are absurd and funny and heartbreaking.

Herrera's new work, "Dining Alone," is sparer and has a more serious tone than some of her other recent works. It is a truly beautiful collection of highly concentrated images, rather like a series of poems. The opening image starts before the lights come up, with a rush of bodies running offstage in the darkness, followed by the clatter and wobble of spinning plates. The lights come up briefly on the spinning plates, which frame a pathway through which Herrera walks, her long white dress glowing in the half-light. It is a quick moment--the lights go dark again as the plates settle and fall--but rather astonishing.

You can read the rest of the review here.